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S P E C I A L The Unabomb Trial

Mental defect defense expected for Kaczynski

Kaczynski November 12, 1997
Web posted at: 12:06 p.m. EST (1706 GMT)

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- Faced with what legal experts call overwhelming evidence in the Unabomb case, defense attorneys intend to claim that accused bomber Theodore Kaczynski suffers from a mental defect.

"This is not a 'whodunit' case," said Joshua Dressler, a professor at McGeorge University law school in Sacramento. "It's more of a 'why did he do it?' case."

Prosecutors argue that Kaczynski is the shadowy Unabomber, who killed three people and injured 28 others during a 17-year mail-bombing spree

In Kaczynski's Montana cabin the FBI says it found an unexploded bomb, an original copy of the Unabomber's manifesto and the typewriter used to type it.

Jury selection, which begins Wednesday from a pool of 600 Sacramento residents, is expected to take at least one month as potential jurors are grilled on their willingness to impose the death penalty.

Unabomber victims, including David Gelernter, whose hand, chest, eye and ear were badly damaged by a package bomb attributed to the Unabomber, are scheduled to testify.

"It's important for people to keep in mind we're not talking about an abstract political statement here. We're talking about a bloody attempted murder," Gelernter said.

Kaczynski's lawyers indicated in court papers that they plan to present a "diminished responsibility" defense by claiming their client suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was mentally incapable of forming the intent to kill.

But because Kaczynski has refused to submit to a court-ordered examination by prosecution psychiatrists, U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell is now considering banning any testimony about his mental state.

This week, published reports said defense lawyers Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke were trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would send their client to jail for the rest of his life but would spare him a death sentence.

A source close to the case said it is unlikely the government will agree to such a deal. "They want this trial out in the open and they want Kaczynski's head. They are not going to settle for anything less than the death penalty," said the source, who insisted on anonymity.

Robert Cleary, head of the FBI's Unabomber Task Force, argued in court papers that Kaczynski is "too dangerous" to be allowed to live.

Bombing death of Gilbert Murray

Kaczynski pleaded not guilty to 10 bomb-related charges, including the murders of Sacramento computer store owner Hugh Scrutton in 1985 and timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray in 1995, the Unabomber's last known victim.

The other charges involved bombs injuring San Francisco geneticist Charles Epstein and Gelernter, a Yale University computer scientist. Both bombs were mailed from Sacramento.

Kaczynski's attorneys filed a motion Monday arguing that lawyers, not the judge, should ask the questions during jury selection because prospective jurors would be unlikely to bare any hidden biases unless prodded by skilled attorneys.

Prosecutors say the judge should participate in questioning, along with attorneys.

Lawyers asked for a hearing on the matter Wednesday, the day jury questioning is scheduled to begin. After jury selection, the trial is expected to take about four months.

Correspondent Susan Reed and Reuters contributed to this report.

The Unabomb Trial The Unabomb Trial

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