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S P E C I A L The Unabomb Trial

Jury selection begins in Kaczynski trial

questioning In this story: November 12, 1997
Web posted at: 10:39 p.m. EST (0339 GMT)

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- Jury selection began Wednesday for Theodore Kaczynski, the Harvard-educated academic-turned-hermit accused of being the mysterious bomber whose hatred of technology drove him to murder and maim with package bombs.

Kaczynski is on trial for killing two men in Sacramento with homemade bombs in what came to be known as the Unabomb case.

Government attorneys intend to seek the death penalty, and much of the first day's questioning focused on whether prospective jurors would be willing to consider the death penalty if Kaczynski is convicted.

Three of the first six prospective panelists were excused by Judge Garland Burrell. One of those dismissed, a woman in her 50s, said she would not be comfortable sentencing someone to death.

A man in his 30s was excused after he told of hearing the explosion that killed timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray in 1995. He said he also viewed the aftermath of the explosion at the California Forestry Association's offices in Sacramento, although he did not see Murray's body.

"There is a difference about actually being there rather than watching it on TV," he said.

Kaczynski, 55, was arrested last year after one of the longest manhunts in the history of the FBI. During that period, 16 letter-bomb explosions killed three people and injured 28.

He faces a 10-count federal indictment in four of the 16 bomb attacks. He has pleaded innocent to the murders of Sacramento computer store owner Hugh Scrutton in 1985 and Murray, the timber industry lobbyist who was the Unabomber's last victim, in 1995.

Kaczynski cheerful and animated

He has also pleaded innocent to charges that he seriously injured San Francisco geneticist Charles Epstein and Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter with bombs mailed from Sacramento.

Once an acting assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, Kaczynski was arrested last year after police received a tip from his brother.

The neatly dressed Kaczynski wore a tan tweed jacket, gray slacks and open-collared shirt. His hair was neatly combed and parted, and his beard was trimmed.

He seemed cheerful and animated as he conferred with his attorneys and appeared to offer comments throughout the proceedings.

Much of the trial is expected to revolve around Kaczynski's mental state. His defense lawyers want to show that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was mentally incapable of forming the intent to kill.

There was an aura of secrecy around the proceedings as television crews were barred from the courthouse and cameras were banned in the courtroom. Kaczynski was driven in and out of the courthouse in a van and was shielded from view by tinted windows.

Jury selection expected to take a month

U.S. marshals carefully checked credentials and everyone was required to go through two metal detectors before entering the courtroom.

Jury selection is expected to take at least a month.

Kaczynski also faces a later trial in New Jersey in the 1994 bombing death of an advertising executive there. He has also pleaded innocent in that case.

Correspondent Don Knapp and Reuters contributed to this report.

The Unabomb Trial

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