Jury selection begins in Unabomber trial
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November 12, 1997
Web posted at: 2:03 p.m. EST (1903 GMT)
SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- Lawyers began sorting through an enormous pool of prospective jurors on Wednesday, seeking 12 to hear the murder trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski.
The first potential juror was a man who said he did not know how he felt about imposing the death penalty and got his news from reading newspaper headlines.
A second potential juror, a woman, said she is against the death penalty. She said she could not go on knowing she had condemned someone to die. If the evidence showed that Kaczynski was guilty, asked prosecutors, could she vote to impose the death penalty. "I don't think so," the woman said.
U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. convened the session by telling potential jurors that Kaczynski is presumed innocent and explaining that there will be two phases of the trial -- one to settle guilt or innocence and a second to determine the sentence in case of a guilty verdict.
Judge allows questioning by lawyers
As Wednesday's court session began, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys asked for permission to question prospective jurors themselves, a task often performed by the judge in federal cases.
Defense lawyers Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke argued that they should be involved because of the concern that pretrial news coverage could influence a prospective juror's view of the case.
Burrell, who has never presided over a death penalty case, granted that request.
It could take a month or more to select the jury from the pool of 600 prospective jurors. The unusually large pool was called because of the widespread news coverage the case has received.
Once 64 "death penalty qualified" jurors -- those jurors who say they can impose the death penalty if warranted -- are selected, the panel will be narrowed to a final group of 12 jurors and six alternates.
Trial deals with 4 of 16 Unabomber attacks
The case that confounded authorities for nearly 18 years moved to a courtroom only a few miles from where computer rental store owner Hugh Scrutton was killed by a Unabomber device, and only blocks from where timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray was killed in the bomber's final attack two years ago.
Kaczynski, 55, a former math professor, faces a 10-count federal indictment in four of the Unabomber's 16 bomb attacks.
Besides the deaths of the Sacramento men, he is accused in the mail bombings that crippled Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter and University of California-San Francisco geneticist Dr. Charles Epstein in June 1993.
Kaczynski, who arrived at the federal courthouse in Sacramento on Wednesday under heavy guard, could face the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded innocent to all charges, including a separate murder count in New Jersey for another bombing.
Correspondent Greg Lefevre contributed to this report.