The jury selection began in California today for Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Following a background report by Spencer Michels, Elizabeth Farnsworth talks with David Jackson about the trial.
SPENCER MICHELS: Just a few blocks from the California state capitol in Sacramento jury selection in the trial of Theodore Kaczynski began in federal court today. Two of the three deaths Kaczynski is implicated in occurred in this city, the first in December 1985. Hugh Scrutton was killed outside his computer store when he picked up a package containing a bomb. The government alleges Kaczynski placed it there himself. Ten years later, at this spot, Gilbert Murray, president of the California Forestry Association, died when he opened a package that was allegedly mailed from Oakland by Kaczynski. A total of 23 people across the country were injured by 16 bombings attributed to the Unabomber between 1978 and 1995. The FBI called him the Unabomber because many of those bombs were sent to University professors. For 11 years Tony Muljat, now retired in Sacramento as a postal inspector, worked on the Unabomber task force.
TONY MULJAT, Unabomber Task Force: Up until 1987, we had no idea if the individual was a male or female because it was in 1987 that a witness observed our suspect in Salt Lake City placing the bomb in back of the Cambs Computer Store.
SPENCER MICHELS: The FBI developed this sketch from that sighting, but it was another ten years before there was a break in the case. Ironically, the Unabomber, himself, provided that break by mailing his so-called "manifesto," a 35,000-word anti-technology, anti-modern civilization diatribe, to newspapers. Under threat of more violence from the Unabomber the New York Times and the Washington Post published it. Kaczynski's brother, David, read it and contacted an attorney.
ANTHONY BISCEGLIE, David Kaczynski's Lawyer: (April 1996) When the manifesto was published, David Kaczynski read the manifesto with the idea that he would be able to immediately discount any connection between his brother and the Unabomber. Unfortunately for Mr. David Kaczynski, when he read the manifesto, he was unable to do that and, in fact, was left with considerable unease.
SPENCER MICHELS: David's cooperation eventually led the FBI to capture Ted Kaczynski in a remote cabin in Montana. The suspect, a Chicago native, was a Harvard graduate, a brilliant mathematician, a professor at the University of California, and very much a loner.
SPENCER MICHELS: Why was this man so difficult to find out about?
TONY MULJAT: Well, because he didn't share anything he was doing with anybody. He kept his mouth shut, and certainly he didn't talk to anybody, and nobody knew anything about him. He was up in this isolated cabin, a 10 by 12 cabin up in Montana, for 20 something years.
SPENCER MICHELS: In the cabin, which eventually was moved to protect the evidence, authorities found an array of papers, chemicals, two bombs, and lists of scientists. They also found what may be an original of the manifesto. The 10-count indictment against Kaczynski includes charges of transporting and mailing an explosive device with intent to kill or injure. Those charges carry a maximum possible sentence of death, which the government is asking for. Kaczynski has pleaded "not guilty." Jury selection is expected to last a month and the trial several months.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get more on the trial from David Jackson, Time Magazine's San Francisco bureau chief. David, tell us about the scene in the courtroom today.
DAVID JACKSON, Time: Elizabeth, Ted Kaczynski was very engaged today. He walked into the courtroom. He was wearing his--sort of a tweed-looking jacket, an open-neck shirt, dark pants. He sat down next to his attorneys. He nodded to an attorney in the front row on his defense team, and then he paid very close attention to what happened in jury selection today. I think for a lot of the potential jurors who came in they may not have noticed that that man in the neatly-trimmed beard was actually the defendant. He took notes; he was watching intently as the potential jurors spoke and when the judge spoke; and he was very interested in what was going on.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What kinds of questions were the jurors, the potential jurors, asked by the prosecution?
DAVID JACKSON: At this stage of the trial, or at the jury selection, what they do is they try to weed out the people who for cause--people who would have philosophical objections to the death penalty, for example, or people for whom serving in this trial would be too much of a hardship. And, in fact, they did, in fact, weed out three of the six jurors who were called this morning at least one of the six that are being questioned this afternoon. This is a--these are preliminary questions in a lot of cases. They want to find out if people just for any reason cannot serve. But once they pass that stage then the lawyers get involved and start asking them about some of their feelings about the presumption of innocence and issues like that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And tell us about the judge and his background.
DAVID JACKSON: This judge is--his name is Garland Burrell, Jr. He is a relatively new judge to the federal bench. He's a very cautious judge. You keep hearing that word from people who have worked with him. He's a former prosecutor, in fact. He used to be in charge of the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's office here. He doesn't have a lot of criminal trial experience, but, again, he's going slowly but very deliberately in this process so far.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, David, let's get one thing clear here. There will not be cameras in this courtroom, right?
DAVID JACKSON: No. In the federal system there are no cameras allowed in court.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: From the documents that have been filed and from what you've heard, what will be the prosecution's strategy?
DAVID JACKSON: The lead prosecutor, Bob Cleary, has said that the backbone of their case will be all the documentation that they found in the cabin in Montana. And this includes literally thousands of pages of notes that Ted Kaczynski kept on experimentation that he did with bombs, according to the FBI. It includes a diary in which he discusses his feelings about why he's bombing people and his feelings after bombs exploded. These are--according to the government--very incriminating documents. And it's around these that the government intends to build its case. Once it does that they are going to supplement that with forensic evidence, and that means the evidence of all of the bombs, the physical evidence, plus physical evidence they found in the cabin. And that includes bomb-making materials, wires, clips, triggers, things that could be connected to the exploded bombs. And finally they found a fully completed bomb in the cabin, which matches the bomb that killed Gilbert Murray, the last fatal bombing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what's the defense said about how they'll defend against this evidence?
DAVID JACKSON: The defense has indicated that they're going to plead a mental defect defense. And what this means--it's something short of an insanity defense. They're not claiming that he did not know the difference between right and wrong--which is what an insanity defense is--their plan seems to be to argue that because of a mental disease or defect, which in their description would be paranoid schizophrenia, that Ted Kaczynski was unable to form the legal intent required by the law to be found responsible for these crimes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, David, the defense says they'll do that, but Kaczynski will not sit for the prosecutor's psychiatrist to examine him, is that right?
DAVID JACKSON: That's right. Ted Kaczynski has thrown a monkey wrench into this plan so far, and it could be a very dangerous one for the defense. The law requires that a defendant be available for examination by prosecution psychiatrists if he intends to present a mental defect or insanity defense. And Ted Kaczynski--probably against the advice of his attorneys--has refused to submit to this examination. And because of that, the law allows the judge to throw out any mental health testimony, and that, in fact, is what the prosecutors are now asking the judge to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But the judge has not yet ruled on that, right?
DAVID JACKSON: He hasn't ruled on that yet.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Will the brother of Ted Kaczynski testify?
DAVID JACKSON: I'm sure he will. The lawyer for David Kaczynski has told me that they're prepared to have him called during the penalty phase if, indeed, the trial gets to that stage. And, of course, that would come after Kaczynski is found guilty in the guilt phase of the trial.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about victims?
DAVID JACKSON: We're going to hear some victims, probably more of them in the penalty phase, if it gets to that, than in the guilt phase. The prosecution has said that they do not want to inject too much emotion into the guilt phase, so they promise that if they call any victims of bombs in the first part of this trial, they would only testify as to the circumstances of the explosions that wounded them. And we--if we got to a penalty phase, then we're sure to hear more testimony about how it's damaged their lives.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David, tell us a little bit about the prosecution attorney, the lead prosecution attorneys.
DAVID JACKSON: The lead prosecution attorney is Robert Cleary. He's the first assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey, and everybody I've talked to describes him as a very skilled trial attorney, but the other thing that Bob Cleary is especially good at is keeping track of very complex trials. And this is a complex trial. It involves a lot of jurisdictions, a lot of agencies. We've got the ATF of the Treasury Department. We've got the FBI; we've got the Postal Service; we've got numerous jurisdictions involved from Montana to California to other states, and Bob Cleary is the man you want to keep all that together.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And finally, the top attorneys for the defense.
DAVID JACKSON: The defense attorneys are led by Quinn Denver, who's the federal defender here, again a man who's widely respected mainly for his appellate skills. He's not all that experienced in criminal trial work, but for that I think we're going to see a lot of Judy Clark, who is the federal defender in Eastern Washington State. She was--became well known to a lot of people in the Susan Smith trial in South Carolina, where she defended her and Susan Smith ended up with a life imprisonment penalty.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. David, thanks very much.