!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Profile: Ronald Kuby

Ronald Kuby was a participant or observer in the following events:

Renowned defense lawyer Roy Black, who has refused to defend Timothy McVeigh.Renowned defense lawyer Roy Black, who has refused to defend Timothy McVeigh. [Source: USLaw (.com)]With accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s two court-appointed lawyers, John Coyle and Susan Otto, asking to be removed from the case (see April 24, 1995 and April 27, 1995), it is unclear who will step up to represent McVeigh. Oklahoma defense lawyer Allen Smallwood tells a reporter: “I’ve said to many people, the acid test of a criminal defense lawyer is could you represent Hitler or Adolph Eichmann? And, yes, I could have. But the publicity and the downside to my life personally would be far, far greater in representing McVeigh than Hitler.” McVeigh is widely regarded as a pariah, and many lawyers fear that to associate themselves with his case would do them irreparable personal and professional harm. Officials at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers say they are confident he will have the best defense possible. America has a long tradition of providing expensive and talented lawyers to represent even the most reviled and unpopular clients, going back to 1770, when future president John Adams represented British soldiers accused of murdering five colonists. If new lawyers are appointed, as seems likely, they will be chosen by the Defender Services Division of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington. Indications are that several lawyers have already been contacted about the case or expressed an interest in it and that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is sounding out possible volunteers in case its help is sought. Oklahoma City defense lawyer Robert A. Manchester says bluntly: “The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution says everybody has a right to counsel. That doesn’t mean they have a right to me.” An American Bar Association ethics rule allows lawyers to turn down appointments if the client is “so repugnant to the lawyer as to impair the lawyer-client relationship.” A number of prominent defense lawyers have already said they would not defend McVeigh. Roy Black, the Florida lawyer who defended William K. Smith, a Kennedy family cousin, on rape charges, has refused, saying: “I find I do the best job in cases where I’m really interested in what I’m doing, and believe in the people and have enthusiasm for it. If no other lawyer was available to take the case, I think I would have the obligation to take it. I don’t think that’s the situation here.” White-collar defense lawyer Carl Rauh says he would not defend accused bombers such as McVeigh. Jack Zimmerman, who defended Branch Davidian Steve Schneider (see March 13, 1993), says he would not defend a client accused of treason unless he was personally convinced of the client’s innocence. Zimmerman’s colleague Richard DeGuerin, who defended Branch Davidian leader David Koresh (see March 13, 1993 and March 29-31, 1993), notes: “You have to understand that the information known about this case is what’s being fed to the public by the authorities. We found out in Waco the public was not being fed the truth.” Lawyers William Kunstler and Ronald Kuby, who have made their reputations defending high-profile, unpopular clients, say they only take clients from the political left or members of minorities whom they feel can be made to represent social issues. “We don’t represent right-wing murderers,” Kuby says. “If I wanted to represent right-wing murderers, I’d become a corporate lawyer.” Kuby says he does not believe that anyone from the American left would have committed such a violent crime. And Manchester notes the difficulty any lawyer will face in becoming involved in such a trial. “My estimate is that whoever gets into the case is going to be faced with 70- to 90-hour weeks solid for six to eight months at $40 an hour for out-of-court time,” he says. “You’re starting two leagues behind the government, and you’ll run all the way until the final day of trial to try and catch up.” Los Angeles defense lawyer Harland Braun, who earlier in his career prosecuted five members of the notorious Manson Family, says: “The government had better make sure they have good cases that are well documented. Otherwise, you’re not only going to create martyrs, but you’re going to create perpetual questions like the JFK thing: Did this guy really do it or was he part of a plot? So you’d better know what you’re doing.” [New York Times, 4/28/1995] McVeigh’s lead lawyer will be Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995).

Entity Tags: Harland Braun, Timothy James McVeigh, William Kunstler, Allen Smallwood, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Carl Rauh, Stephen Jones, Susan Otto, Ronald Kuby, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, John Coyle, Jack Zimmerman, Roy Black, Robert A. Manchester, American Bar Association, Richard DeGuerin

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

After authorities determine that Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), may have attempted to commit suicide in his jail cell, they agree to a psychiatric evaluation of his competence to stand trial and to allow him to seek to conduct his own defense. Kaczynski also agrees to the evaluation. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/8/1998] Until now, he has forcefully resisted attempts by his lawyers to present him as mentally ill (see January 5, 1998). It is believed that Kaczynski tried to hang himself in his cell with his underwear. Kaczynski told jailers that he had “lost” his underwear while in the prison shower; a search of his cell found the underwear stuffed inside a small plastic bag inside his trash can. According to Sacramento County Undersheriff Lou Blanas, the underwear was stretched out of shape consistent with being “used in the type of way we thought he did: putting it around his neck and trying to hang himself.” US Marshals have reported seeing a red rash on the right side of Kaczynski’s throat while he dressed for court, leading them to conclude he had tried to hang himself with the missing underwear sometime before leaving his cell. Kaczynski is now under 24-hour suicide watch. The judge presiding over Kaczynski’s trial, Garland Burrell Jr., is caught between trying to defend Kaczynski’s constitutional rights to participate in his own defense, and protecting Kaczynski from himself and his mental illness. The legal standard for “competency” is quite low: someone diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia, as Kaczynski has been, can still be ruled competent to stand trial. Ronald Kuby, who has stood as defense counsel in high-profile death penalty cases, says: “It is a firm principle of constitutional law… if you’re competent to stand trial you are competent to represent yourself. That’s not competence in the legally talented sense.… [I]t violates 200 years of jurisprudence and basic notions, such as the presumption of innocence, to force an insanity defense on an unwilling defendant.” Psychiatrist Robert T.M. Phillips says: “Insanity is a legal term, not a clinical term. The law defines what the components of insanity are.… Depending on the jurisdiction that you’re in, you could be a flagrant psychotic, quite schizophrenic, and still found legally sane. To the lay person it may not make sense—to some of us in the system it may not make sense. But these are rules of law, not of medicine or science.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998; Washington Post, 1/9/1998]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Ronald Kuby, Garland E. Burrell Jr., Lou Blanas, Robert T.M. Phillips

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike