Unabomber Bid for New Trial Denied

Monday, February 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court denied Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's bid for a trial Monday, saying he was not coerced into pleading guilty to three fatal mail bombings.

Kaczynski, who entered his plea in January 1998 in a mail-bombing spree that killed three people and injured 23, had told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals he felt pressured to plead guilty as a way to avoid being portrayed as mentally ill by his defense attorneys.

But Kaczynski ``admits that this is speculative and that no proof for it is possible,'' Judge Pamela Ann Rymer wrote in the 2-1 decision.

Kaczynski had claimed a federal judge violated his rights by allowing his lawyers to use his mental condition as a defense, over his objections, and denying his request to represent himself.

Kaczynski had wanted a trial even if it meant getting the death penalty but was given a life sentence in exchange for his guilty plea.

The Justice Department initially sought a death sentence but accepted the life term after a court-ordered psychiatric examination, conducted over his objections, concluded he was a paranoid schizophrenic.

In handwritten court papers, Kaczynski referred to himself in the third person, writing that he ``repeatedly made it clear to his attorneys that if presented with a choice between life imprisonment and a death sentence, he would just as soon have the death sentence.''

The Harvard-trained mathematician who became a Montana forest recluse is serving a life sentence at a federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo., for the string of Unabomber attacks between 1978 and 1995. Two people were killed in Sacramento and the third in New Jersey.

The government labeled him the Unabomber because many of his attacks were directed at university scholars and airlines.

J. Tony Serra, a prominent San Francisco defense attorney who volunteered to represent Kaczynski, said that if granted a trial, he would have needed to put on a so-called ``political defense'' as his only chance of avoiding a death sentence. Serra said Kaczynski told him he wanted such a defense when they met in prison more than a year ago.

``He always wanted to go to trial. He wanted to air his principles, his ideology behind his actions,'' Serra said. ``He thinks he was saving the world.''