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Kaczynski's Mental Condition is New Focus of Unabomber Case

By Mark Gladstone
Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO, Calif.

In being singled out recently for having "the courage of his convictions," David Kaczynski focused on his family's wrenching moral dilemma in the nearly two years since he suggested to the FBI that his brother might be the notorious Unabomber.

"Someone we love went over the edge (or so it seems)," Kaczynski told an Albany, N.Y. audience last month gathered in his honor.

In the wake of his family's ordeal, the social worker voiced the hope that "our nation's criminal justice system will find the courage and wherewithal to take a closer, more understanding and compassionate look at the problem of mental illness."

In doing so, Kaczynski spotlighted an issue that has emerged as a major point of contention in Theodore Kaczynski's upcoming murder-by-bombing trial: the mental condition of the one-time University of California, Berkeley, mathematics professor.

At the heart of the dispute, as reflected in a flurry of pretrial motions and hearings, is whether Theodore Kaczynski had the intent to commit the bombings.

To make their own determination, federal prosecutors are pressing to have two nationally known forensic psychiatrists conduct face-to-face interviews with the recluse accused of being responsible for a string of notorious bombings over 17 years.

Attorneys for Theodore Kaczynski have fought to block the evaluation even as they appear poised to raise questions of their own about their client's state of mind as they seek to save his life.

So far Kaczynski's attorneys, Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke, have balked at providing any specific details to the court about their client's "mental defects." And so far they have not sought to mount an insanity defense.

In their view, they are only obligated to alert prosecutors of "an intention' to introduce expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental condition."

But U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. has ordered that by 1 p.m. Thursday, they provide the government with more details of their strategy.

The defense response, coupled with the proposed mental exam, will help shape the direction of the case, including selection of jurors. Even before the scheduled Nov. 12 start of the trial, hundreds of prospective jurors earlier this week gathered under tight security at the state fairgrounds to fill out questionnaires.

Theodore Kaczynski, 55, has pleaded not guilty in Sacramento to a 10-count indictment that alleges he was responsible for four blasts, including two fatal attacks in the state's capital.

Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996 at his isolated cabin near the tiny mountain town of Lincoln, Mont., where prosecutors say they found stacks of evidence indicating he was the anti-technology bomber responsible for blasts across the nation dating back to 1978.

"The mountain of evidence could potentially indicate that this is the person who sent the bomb. but the prosecution also has to prove the mental state," said Linda Carter, a law professor at McGeorge Law School in Sacramento.

Federal prosecutors contend that they are entitled to a fuller explanation of the nature of Kaczynski's mental defense. They also want the right to have their own experts examine the Harvard-educated mathematician now residing at a federal prison in Pleasanton about 90 miles from Sacramento.