Defending the 'Indefensible': The Lawyers for History's Most Notorious Criminals

Photo Credit: Mark Foley/AP/REX/Shutterstock
June 20, 2018
Updated 4mo ago

By Max Godnick and Samantha Errico

Serial killers and terrorists need lawyers too.

And Oxygen's new true-crime series "In Defense Of" re-examines the cases of infamous criminals from the perspective of the defense attorneys who represented those who many would deem indefensible.

"We've never taken a deep dive into what it's like to be a criminal defense attorney," said Chris Tritico, one of the lawyers featured on the show, in an interview with Cheddar on Wednesday.

Tritico defended Timothy McVeigh, the domestic terrorist who killed 168 people after setting off a truck bomb in front of an Oklahoma City office building in 1995. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in June 2001 for carrying out the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to 9/11. Tritico recounted his client's impressive recall, often being able to memorize the details of lengthy legal documents ahead of his trial.

"He was the most intelligent person I've ever met," he said.

Not all criminal defense attorneys have such kind words for their former clients. John Henry Browne, another lawyers featured in the new show, had the unique distinction of defending one of history's most vicious serial killers, Ted Bundy.

Browne called taking on the case, "a poor decision on my part." He remembers the man who confessed to thirty homicides between 1974 and 1978 as "really creepy."

"He always pretended to be something he wasn't, and a lot of people bought into that," said Browne, adding, "I never did."

The stars of "In Defense Of" reflected on the toll of being associated with their reviled clients.

"You take a personal hit, you take a professional hit, you take a financial hit," said Dan Cogdell, who defended Branch Davidian cult member Clive Doyle, who survived the 51-day standoff in 1993 between leader David Koresh and police, which ended in the deaths of 75 people.

Despite the drawbacks, the attorneys agreed that their jobs speak to the virtues and purpose of their original decision to become lawyers.

"When you take on someone like Tim McVeigh and someone says, 'How can you stand up for someone like that?', I tell people, it's so that I can stand up for someone like you," said Tritico.

"In Defense Of" premieres Monday, June 25th on Oxygen.

For the full interview, click here.