July 7th, 2014
02:49 PM ET
4 weeks ago

Clinton explains defense in controversial rape case

(CNN) – Hillary Clinton pushed back at ongoing criticism of her providing legal defense decades ago to an accused rapist, explaining that she had asked not to be assigned to the case but ultimately had a responsibility to represent her client.

In 1975, Clinton, a 27-year-old attorney, was appointed by a judge to represent Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a young girl, for free while working at the legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas.

"I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not and I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did," Clinton told Mumsnet, a British-based online parenting network, in an interview published Saturday.

Based on court documents obtained by CNN and Clinton's own account in her 2003 memoir "Living History," she won a plea deal for Taylor, securing a significantly reduced charge and sentence, based on a forensic mistake that cast doubt on the semen and blood samples found in the defendant's underwear.

Critics have pounced on Clinton's involvement in the nearly four-decade-old case to suggest that the likely 2016 presidential candidate is not the champion of women's issues she frames herself to be, pointing to court documents that show then Hillary Rodham questioned the girl's emotional state and an audio recording of Clinton from the 1980s where she says she believed her client was guilty.

Asked about her defense method, Clinton told the British outlet: "When you're a lawyer you often don't have the choice as to who you will represent and, by the very nature of criminal law, there will be those you represent that you don't approve of but, at least in our system, you have an obligation, and once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation."

Previously Mahlon Gibson, the prosecuting attorney in the case, told CNN Clinton was appointed by the judge and expressed reservations in taking the case.

CNN's Dana Davidsen and Dan Merica contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • Arkansas • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. morebs

    she did her job. move on

    July 7, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. just saying

    sorry hillary, we always have choices and you choose to represent him. what's worse is you then went on to attack the 12 year old victim as part of your defense. unforgiveable. and just when we all thought that getting 4 americans killed was bad, you prove to the world there is no limit to how low you can stoop.

    July 7, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Tony D

    Didn't she submit false affidavits claiming the poor little 12 year old victim went looking for the raping she got?

    July 7, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. emskadittle

    so she she did her job even though she had reservations, that's it case closed

    July 7, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Why is she explaining any of it? It was the job that she was hired to do. She's simply providing cannon fodder to the right.

    July 7, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. kool aid man

    You idiots wouldn't know the truth if it slapped you in the face!

    July 7, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. bill

    I wonder if she would defend this dirt bag if he raped HER daughter.

    July 7, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. kool aid man

    Say it with me JS, madam president, too funny, eight more years and after that, even the brain washed Republican voters won't be able to deny the gop hates you. At that point an intelligent group would ask, why can't we win the Whitehouse, even when we cheat, but heck no, keep drinking, its all good, ha ha.

    July 7, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  9. mikeyritter

    To Bill- Hillary wouldn't be asked to defend someone if her daughter was involved.. So your question is an absurd one.

    July 7, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. derwas

    I absolutely despise Hilary Clinton, but if the Women's issues lobby, jumps on Hilary for doing the absolute best she could for the alleged rapist, which he was at that time, then they are idiots. I have never liked her policies or thought much of the way she would govern but this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone attacking her because she was too good of a lawyer for someone even if he was probably guilty. When you are assigned to a pro-bono case you do it, and do it to the best of your ability. If you don't and it can be proved that you did not do your best the state bar can censure or even disbar your for this behavior

    July 7, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. kool aid man

    Why won't mittens run, because he amended his taxes so he didn't pay squat, he knows he has no chance, he's the problem, not the solution.

    July 7, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    So she did a job way back in 1975 that attorneys do every day.
    So that and about 1000 conspiracy theories is all the right wing has?
    She should treat this the same way Obama treated "birth certificate" and "death panels".
    Tell your simple truth and then move on and let the tin foil hats rant and rave.

    July 7, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  13. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Rudy NYC says:
    July 7, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm
    Why is she explaining any of it? It was the job that she was hired to do. She’s simply providing cannon fodder to the right.

    You took the words right out of my mouth Rudy. She did her job. This is such a non-story. I know I would hate to defend a rapist, especially one accused of child rape, which is why I could never be a court appointed attorney. But that was her job and she did it. Is that all they have on her? Her doing her job as an attorney 40 years ago and Bill getting his cigar smoked 20 years ago??? Anything a little more recent..... Oh I forgot.....

    Benghazi!!!😳

    July 7, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. it must be said

    There is NOTHING that Hillary Clinton wouldn't do in order to advance her career, power and bank account. So what if people get killed or in this case, a 12 year old girl is re-victimized by a defense attorney "just doing her job". And then their are the victims of her serial predator husband that she also attacked and re-victimized. And then there is the "enemies list" she is known to have. This is NOT the type of person you want anywhere near the reins of power!!

    July 7, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    derwas

    I absolutely despise Hilary Clinton, but if the Women's issues lobby, jumps on Hilary for doing the absolute best she could for the alleged rapist, which he was at that time, then they are idiots. I have never liked her policies or thought much of the way she would govern but this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone attacking her because she was too good of a lawyer for someone even if he was probably guilty. When you are assigned to a pro-bono case you do it, and do it to the best of your ability. If you don't and it can be proved that you did not do your best the state bar can censure or even disbar your for this behavior
    -----------------------------
    The right wing will attack you for anything, and they will say anything in the process, making mutually exclusive arguments in the process. That's how they sound on most every issue. "What are you talking about?" Their arguments only make sense to people too consumed and distracted to comprehend.

    For example, they dispute the claim that large numbers of guns are being sold without the proper background checks. But, then they turn right around and claim that criminals can buy as many guns as they want without any problem. They talk out of both sides of their mouths all of the time.

    July 7, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Tony D

    Didn't she submit false affidavits claiming the poor little 12 year old victim went looking for the raping she got?
    ----------------------------
    Why did your great-grandfather punish his slaves so mercilessly?

    July 7, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Tommy G

    "just doing her job", "I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not"
    --

    Total BUNK!! Nobody can FORCE anybody to represent somebody they do not want to represent. I can't believe people are so gullible.

    July 7, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. Silence DoGood

    Someone who understands the law and will fight for the people.
    Isn't that exactly what we want in a president?

    July 7, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Dean

    "So what? I defended a man who raped a 12-year old girl...big deal. What difference, at this point, does it make?"

    July 7, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @just saying: " getting 4 americans killed was bad, you prove to the world there is no limit to how low you can stoop."

    If Hillary Clinton is the sneaky political operative you claim her to be, then please explain why she would "get" 4 Americans killed, when saving them would have been much more politically advantageous?

    BTW, is this the same Hillary Clinton you claim has brain damage? How does she manage to be so clever and so brain damaged at the same time?

    *crickets*

    July 7, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. just asking

    Rudy NYC says:
    Why is she explaining any of it? It was the job that she was hired to do. She’s simply providing cannon fodder to the right.
    --

    yeah, yeah!! why do demorcrats have to answer for anything, no matter what it is?! it is the job of the left wing media to suppress this and attack those answering questions. only positive, fictious items about hillary clinton, the queen in waiting, are allowed.

    July 7, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Tony D: "Didn't she submit false affidavits claiming the poor little 12 year old victim went looking for the raping she got?"

    Cite your source – or are you just another RWNJ that throws out lies as a way of planting the latest absurdity in the minds of the fox sheeple?

    July 7, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "there will be those you represent that you don't approve of but, at least in our system, you have an obligation, and once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation."

    Ah, but your political foes WILL use it against you, regardless of that obligation.

    July 7, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    it must be said

    There is NOTHING that Hillary Clinton wouldn't do in order to advance her career, power and bank account. So what if people get killed or in this case, a 12 year old girl is re-victimized by a defense attorney "just doing her job". And then their are the victims of her serial predator husband that she also attacked and re-victimized. And then there is the "enemies list" she is known to have. This is NOT the type of person you want anywhere near the reins of power!!
    ----------------------------------
    What's wrong with an "enemies list" when you're running for office? Anyone who doesn't keep track of their political allies and enemies is a fool. It's too bad that the best the right wing has to offer is Flip Flopney.

    July 7, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @it must be said: "There is NOTHING that Hillary Clinton wouldn't do in order to advance her career, power and bank account."

    You're one of those RWNJs who think Hillary Clinton "let" four Americans die in Benghazi. Please explain how that "advances" her career.

    *crickets*

    July 7, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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