Devil’s AdvocateJacques Verges

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Born in Thailand to a French father and a Vietnamese mother, Verges was well suited as an attorney to defend just about anyone, no matter how infamous. Really, he didn’t care how infamous: he represented Klaus Barbie, a Gestapo captain who was directly responsible for torture and murder in France during World War II. He represented Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist from Venezuela who killed and maimed more than 150 people in political bombings. He even defended Khieu Sampan, the former head of state for the Khmer Rouge. “I would have defended Hitler,” Verges once said. “Defending doesn’t mean excusing. A lawyer doesn’t judge, doesn’t condemn, doesn’t acquit. He tries to understand.”

Not surprisingly, he usually lost his cases. Verges also offered to help defend Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic, and Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein. Verges was often called “The Devil’s Advocate” by others. He chose a different name for his autobiography: The Brilliant Bastard. “He was one of two or three extraordinary lawyers of my generation,” said French lawyer George Kiejman, who was often on the other side, facing Verges in court. “I gave him all my respect, all the while knowing that we would agree on absolutely nothing.” Verges died August 15 in Paris at a friend’s apartment, in what happened to be the bedroom of Voltaire, the French Enlightenment philosopher. The cause was sudden cardiac arrest. He was 88.

From This is True for 18 August 2013