Scorn, icy stares follow terror suspects’ lawyers

Stanley L. Cohen, a lawyer representing Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, speaks to reporters outside federal court in New York City on March 24, 2014

NEW YORK — People in the courthouse sometimes shun them. Friends, and even family, sometimes question their principles.

For the small band of lawyers who defend the most despised terrorism suspects — the ones accused of hatching al-Qaeda plots to kill Americans around the world — this is the highly uncomfortable life they chose.

They are the true believers in the legal principle that everybody deserves representation in court, even if it means they get the same scorn and sometimes the same scrutiny as the people they represent.

Just ask Anthony Ricco, who was among a handful of respected defense lawyers summoned to the federal courthouse in Manhattan after the September 11 attacks because they might be needed for potential suspects. He recalled his mother telling him, in a temporary moment of outrage, “If you go down there to represent them, I will never speak to you again.”