A Unabomber trial would focus on Kaczynski ideology

SAN FRANCISCO - If he's granted a new trial, Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's strategy will likely be a defense in which jurors must believe he waged a 20-year mailbombing campaign to save the world from technology's tyranny, according to experts familiar with the case.

After all, the Industrial Revolution was ''a disaster for the human race,'' according to a widely publicized 35,000-word manifesto the government says the Unabomber wrote. The manifesto views technology as the vehicle by which people are destroying themselves and the world.

Kaczynski wants a trial even if that means getting the death penalty he avoided in exchange for his 1998 guilty plea and life sentence.

Kaczynski said he pleaded guilty to three mailbomb murders and 23 nonfatal mailbombings to avoid a mental defect defense that his court-appointed lawyers were pushing. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consider the issue after Kaczynski claimed he was denied his constitutional right to attorneys because they would not defend him in manner acceptable to him.

A decision by the San Francisco-based court is expected any day.

''The facts of this case are entirely consistent with the hypothesis that Kaczynski's counsel used their mental-state defense as a threat to pressure him into an unconditional plea bargain as a means of saving him from risk of a death sentence,'' Kaczynski wrote in the petition to the court. He's his own lawyer for the appeal.

J. Tony Serra, a prominent San Francisco defense attorney who may represent Kaczynski if he's granted a trial, said the Unabomber would need to put on a so-called ''political defense'' as his only, albeit slim chance to avoid a death sentence. Serra said such a defense is what the Unabomber told him he wanted when they met in prison 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.''

Timothy McVeigh offered a similar and unsuccessful political defense, claiming he killed 168 people by blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City as retribution for the FBI's attack on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. But the approach worked for O.J. Simpson, whose lawyers focused the jury ''on white cops framing a famous black athlete,'' said Stephen Jones, McVeigh's lawyer.

Michael Mello, a Vermont School of Law professor and author of ''The United States of America versus Theodore John Kaczynski,'' said the Unabomber's defense must ''convince the jury that he honestly and sincerely thought he was right, that he was combating a greater evil and that he's not a monster deserving of society's ultimate punishment.''

Serra said he would take the case if the appeals court allows the Unabomber to withdraw the guilty plea he entered before U.S. District Court Judge Garland Burrell in Sacramento. But he said he's not sure Kaczynski will want his assistance after the two had a falling out when Serra refused to help him with his appeal.

Serra, who believes the Unabomber deserves a trial, did not help with the appeal because he thinks a jury would vote to execute the Harvard-trained mathematician who left his University of California at Berkeley teaching job to live in the Montana wilderness.

Still, Kaczynski told Serra he wants a trial and he wants it to focus not on him, but on society as seen through the manifesto's preachings. Modern man, according to the manifesto, ''is threatened by many things against which he is helpless: nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, nationwide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.''

Kaczynski did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for an interview.

The government labeled him the Unabomber because some of his attacks, which killed two in Sacramento and one in New Jersey, were directed at university scholars.

Kaczynski was arrested in 1996 after his brother, David, told authorities he thought the manifesto work resembled his brother's writings. At his remote Montana cabin, the government found what prosecutors said was the typewriter used to produce the manifesto and several drafts of the treatise.


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