Friday’s New York Times obituary by Bruce Weber of radical lawyer Leonard Weinglass, described in the Times headline as a “Courtroom Defender Of Radicals and Renegades,” glossed over the radicalism of Weinglass’s notorious clients. The text box gushed: “A man one colleague called ‘our era’s Clarence Darrow.’”
Leonard I. Weinglass, perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent progressive defense lawyer, who represented political renegades, government opponents and notorious criminal defendants in a half century of controversial cases, including the Chicago Seven, the Pentagon Papers and the Hearst kidnapping, died on Wednesday. He was 77 and lived in Manhattan.
Weber applied the usual Times gloss to Weinglass's radical clients, referring to Angela Davis, a prominent Communist Party member who twice ran on the party’s presidential ticket, only as an “activist and educator.” Davis also received the Lenin “Peace Prize” from East Germany in 1979, when that country was a Communist police state.
Over the past 40 years, he represented many other prominent clients, including Angela Davis, the activist and educator who was acquitted of murder, conspiracy and kidnapping charges in the 1970 killing of a California judge, and Amy Carter, the daughter of President Carter, who along with others, including Abbie Hoffman, was arrested during a 1986 protest against the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency at the University of Massachusetts. She was acquitted of trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.
More recently, Mr. Weinglass was involved in the death-row appeals of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose conviction in the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer has been shrouded in allegations of racism, police corruption and judicial bias; and the Cuban 5, who were convicted in 2001 of espionage against the United States but who say they were monitoring Miami-based terrorist groups that target Cuba.
Abu-Jamal has never denied shooting Officer Daniel Faulkner, whose name was not mentioned by Weber. The case was a cause celebre in Hollywood and overseas, yet is based on no exculpatory evidence. Columnist Debra Saunders outlined: “Two policemen and one hospital security guard testified to the court that while Abu-Jamal was being brought into the hospital following the altercation with Faulkner, he shouted repeatedly, ‘I shot the mother f---er, and I hope the mother f---er dies.’”
By contrast, Weber did not hide ideology in his hostile December 19, 2009 obituary for conservative icon Paul Weyrich:
A writer, a lobbyist and an organizer on behalf of conservative causes and especially social conservatism, Mr. Weyrich (pronounced WY-rick) was one of the far right's most unbending ideologues. He was widely credited with coining the phrase "moral majority" as a rallying label for social conservatives. It became the name of the religion-based political organization that was led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.....A deacon in the ultra-conservative Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Mr. Weyrich openly fused his faith and his politics.