John Clark, a defense attorney in Spokane, WA who was well known in the area as being a near tireless proponent for the rights of the accused in the legal maze, has finally laid down his head Friday at the age of 58, losing his two-year battle with cancer. John and his wife Ellen had been friends of the family for near 15 years, through my younger sister and their daughter, and I'd always known the man to be vibrant, excited, and honest. And reading the news stories, it's clear that others view the man the same.
John was a brilliant attorney, who often took on amazingly difficult cases pro bono publico simply because he felt that it was the best thing to do. He won some, like the case of the 17 Spokane area teenagers arrested for protesting police brutality in 2007. He lost some, like the case of Ken Olsen, a Spokane Area man convicted of trying to make Ricin because he was found to be in possession of Castor oil, and happened to be going through a rough patch with his wife.
John even spoke at the sentencing of a man who held a knife to his throat to coerce a pharmacist into handing over painkillers, not to demand the book be thrown at the man, but to request leniency. John truly believed every single person is redeemable, and did everything in his power to ensure that they would get the chance at a fair trial. John is part of the reason that I find such interest in the law, and in the rights of individuals under the law. He was a firm believer that the role of law was to protect the rights of the individual, and the passion with which he spoke against new attempts to reduce individual liberty was inspiring.
Spokane's legal community, and it's accused, have suffered an enormous loss. And those of us who knew him, miss him greatly.