William Moses Kunstler

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Kunstler, William Moses,

1919–95, American lawyer, b. New York City, grad. Yale (1941), Columbia law school (1948). Flamboyant and often brilliant, Kunstler defended the unpopular and unfailingly supported left-wing causes and clients. He represented his first controversial case in the 1950s, and by the 1960s was working with the American Civil Liberties UnionAmerican Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), nonpartisan organization devoted to the preservation and extension of the basic rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Founded (1920) by such prominent figures as Jane Addams, Helen Keller, Judah Magnus, and Norman Thomas, the ACLU grew
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 and representing Martin Luther KingKing, Martin Luther, Jr.,
1929–68, American clergyman and civil-rights leader, b. Atlanta, Ga., grad. Morehouse College (B.A., 1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D., 1951), Boston Univ. (Ph.D., 1955).
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 and other civil rights leaders. His most famous case was the Chicago SevenChicago Seven,
group of political activists, originally eight in number, who led protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and were charged with criminal conspiracy and incitement to riot.
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, whom he defended against charges of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention. Other cases included his defense of the American Indian Movement at Wounded KneeWounded Knee,
creek, rising in SW S.Dak. and flowing NW to the White River; site of the last major battle of the Indian wars. After the death of Sitting Bull, a band of Sioux, led by Big Foot, fled into the badlands, where they were captured by the 7th Cavalry on Dec.
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 (1974), of prisoners in the Attica riots (1975), of drug dealer Larry Davis (1986), of gangster John Gotti (1992), and of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and other accused terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He wrote The Case for Courage (1962), Trials and Tribulations (1985), The Emerging Police State (2004), and other books.


See his My Life as a Radical Lawyer (1994); biography by D. J. Langum (1999); E. and S. Kunstler, dir., William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (documentary, 2009).

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