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Death penalty expert Clarke joins defense of Boston bomb suspect

By Terry Baynes

(Reuters) - Prominent criminal defense lawyer Judy Clarke, who has represented defendants in some of the most high-profile death penalty cases in recent years, has joined the legal defense team for accused Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, according to court documents.

San Diego-based Clarke defended Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty last year to an Arizona shooting rampage that wounded then-U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords and was spared the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 19, was captured on April 19 and has been recovering from bullet wounds at a prison medical center outside Boston. Prosecutors have charged him with using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 264, an offense that can carry the death penalty.

Miriam Conrad, a public defender representing Tsarnaev, filed a request in Boston federal court last week asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler to appoint to his legal team Clarke and another lawyer. She cited a federal law that gives such defendants a right to "learned counsel," or lawyers with experience handling death penalty cases.

Bowler in an order on Monday agreed to appoint Clarke, who will join the three federal public defenders already assigned to Tsarnaev's case.

She rejected Tsarnaev's request to appoint a second death penalty expert, law professor David Bruck of Washington and Lee University, but said Tsarnaev could make the request again if indicted.

Clarke has had success in defending high-profile clients against the death penalty in the past. In exchange for pleading guilty last year to killing six people and wounding 13 others in an Arizona shooting spree, Loughner was spared the death penalty. Under the plea deal, he was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.

Clarke's previous clients also include the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her children in the mid-1990s.

The Boston case is USA v. Tsarnaev, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 13-2106.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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