“In addition to being a brilliant lawyer in terms of knowing the law and persuading a jury, perhaps her most impressive quality is her ability to connect and understand individuals that the rest of the world despises,” says her friend and fellow defense attorney Laurie Shanks. “She is really able not only to gain their trust but to make their actions understandable to others.”

Shanks notes: “It’s easy to look at someone who’s done something really horrible and see a monster. It is very difficult to look at monsters like that and see a human, and Judy is able to do that. You look at Jared Loughner and say, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s crazy,’ look at Susan Smith, ‘How despicable!’ You look at the guy in Boston, ‘How could you kill an 8-year-old?’ To be able to look at them and see their humanity is really a very unusual ability and unique … not that she condones or expects others to condone their actions.”

In young Tsarnaev’s case, that promises to be in some ways harder and in some easier than in other cases. His actions cannot be as easily ascribed to mental illness as with Loughner, but he was apparently following the lead of his older brother and not acting on his own initiative, as were Rudolph and Kaczynski. Clarke no doubt will note that the victim in the carjacking recalls that when Tamerlan Tsarnaev spoke of the marathon bombing, he spoke in the first person, saying, “I did that.”

Clarke will most likely seek to avoid a trial and negotiate a plea. She has quoted a fellow defense attorney as once advising her, “The first step to losing a capital case is picking a jury.”