Yesterday, my former English professor from Longwood University posted the following picture, along with a comment that she wished this particular lie would go away.
I probably heard about this at some time, but it slipped my mind.
I don't want to write too much about the specifics in this case because the case is not really why I am inspired to write this morning. The meme my prof shared was linked from Snopes.com, and there you can read an extensive account of what actually transpired. What I want to write about is the part of the meme where it says "Hillary got my rapist freed."
Bill and I were talking about this last night. I said, while admittedly under the influence of a very nice red wine, that even if what's written on this meme is completely true-- and it's not--, as a lawyer, it was Hillary Clinton's job to vigorously defend her client. If her client got off or got a reduced sentence, then Mrs. Clinton presumably did her job well. Even if the guy she was defending was guilty, it wouldn't have been Mrs. Clinton's job to bring him to justice. It was her job to protect her client's rights. That's what good lawyers are supposed to do.
In 1975, Mrs. Clinton, then known as Hillary Rodham, was a young lawyer who took on this case involving Tom Taylor, a then 42 year old indigent man who was accused of raping a twelve year old girl. She did not "volunteer" to represent Mr. Taylor. A judge assigned her to the case because Taylor wanted a female attorney and there were only a few of them available in the area at the time. She took the case because she had to and she worked hard for her client, even though he was indigent and couldn't pay her handsomely for her efforts.
Anyone who has been accused of a crime, whether or not they are guilty, is entitled to competent legal representation. Anyone in that situation with a functioning brain would want a decent attorney to represent them. My opinion is that even if I might personally find it distasteful that an attorney would defend someone reprehensible, I would also expect a good lawyer to be professional and advocate for their client. It sounds to me like that's what Hillary Clinton did.
As to the part about the victim "making up the rape story", what actually happened is that Mrs. Clinton requested that the girl undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She did so because she had been informed that the accuser was emotionally unstable and had a history of seeking out older men and fantasizing about them, then claiming that they had attacked her. Mrs. Clinton was also informed by a child psychologist that adolescents sometimes exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences. Under those circumstances, wouldn't it have been prudent for Mrs. Clinton to have the girl checked out by a mental health professional?
Let me ask my readers this question. If you or a loved one were accused of a crime, wouldn't you want your attorney to do everything in their power to keep you or your loved one out of prison? Wouldn't you want to be considered innocent until proven guilty? Because what we're talking about, here, is someone going to prison. A prison sentence, in and of itself, is horrible enough. But it doesn't just affect the person being sent away. It also affects their families and society at large. And being convicted of a felony can have a seriously bad effect on the rest of a person's life.
Unfortunately, the court system doesn't always get it right. Innocent people have been incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit. A few have even ended up on death row. There have been recent cases of people on death row being exonerated. Some of them spent decades anticipating their deaths at the hands of the government. Can you imagine what it would be like to spend years in prison under extremely tight security for a crime you didn't commit, especially if your punishment was execution? If you were lucky enough to be exonerated, how would you feel as you were set free? What kinds of challenges would you face in society? Think about it.
Personally, I think it's better to err on the side of letting guilty people go free than locking up innocent people. Moreover, Mr. Taylor did not go free. Mrs. Clinton arranged for a plea deal to a lesser charge that carried a maximum sentence of five years. The judge gave Mr. Taylor four years probation and a year, with credit for time served. That may seem like a very light sentence, but it was the judge who handed down the punishment, not Mrs. Clinton.
The girl in this case had advocates. There were people on her side. It was not Mrs. Clinton's job to work for the victim. Mrs. Clinton was working for the accused. It was her job to advocate for him, even if he was a terrible person. She did her job well. It's too bad that people react so emotionally to cases like these.
Now, I am not necessarily a fan of Hillary Clinton's politics and I don't have plans to cast my vote for her. I do recognize her as a very ambitious, hardworking, shrewd, and accomplished woman. She's also an excellent lawyer. She is probably perfectly suited for her career in politics. She cut her teeth in law, which is not a career for people who aren't prepared to set aside their own personal principles for the good of their clients. Of course many people hope for politicians who are humane and compassionate, but the truth is, the most successful politicians have to be aggressive and shrewd. Otherwise, they'll get steamrolled.