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Rudolph trial postponed until next year

Jury selection to begin in March

By Henry Schuster
CNN Senior Producer

• Security tight as Rudolph arrives
Eric Rudolph

(CNN) -- A federal judge postponed until next year the trial of accused bomber Eric Rudolph, which had been set to begin August 2.

U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith on Thursday released an order setting jury selection to begin in March, with the expectation that opening statements will begin May 24.

Rudolph's attorneys had asked the judge to delay the trial until July 2005. Prosecutors had opposed a delay.

Earlier this week, Smith decided the trial will be held in Birmingham, where Rudolph is accused of bombing a women's clinic and killing a police officer in 1998.

In keeping the trial in Birmingham, Smith said that he would expand the potential jury pool to all 31 counties in the Northern Judicial District of Alabama. He also said he envisioned calling at least 500 potential jurors.

He ordered the prosecution and defense to agree on a jury questionnaire and recommended they study the ones used in the federal trials of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Also earlier this week, the judge said that he preferred not to sequester the jury, but would listen to arguments about protecting the identity of jurors.

He said he expects the trial to last two to three months.

Rudolph was arrested in May 2003 after a manhunt that lasted more than five years. He is also charged in a string of bombings in Atlanta, including the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Olympics.

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