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Context of 'January 5, 1998: ’Unabomber’ Interrupts First Day of Murder Trial with Demand to Replace Lawyers'

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In Tiburon, California, Dr. Charles Epstein, a geneticist at the University of California, opens a package mailed to his home and brought inside by his daughter Joanna. The package contains a wooden box, which itself contains a bomb. The resulting explosion blows off several of Epstein’s fingers, breaks his arm, and causes a number of abdominal injuries. Epstein is known as a researcher who has helped identify a gene that may contribute to Down’s Syndrome. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 6/25/1993; Washington Post, 1998; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). Kaczynski once worked as a professor at UC-Berkeley. This is the first bomb known to have been detonated by Kaczynski in over six years (see February 20, 1987). Another device mailed by Kaczynski will detonate two days later (see June 24, 1993).

Entity Tags: University of California at Berkeley, Charles Epstein, Joanna Epstein, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An FBI recreation of one of the Unabomber’s explosive devices, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC.An FBI recreation of one of the Unabomber’s explosive devices, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. [Source: Newseum / Wikimedia]Computer scientist David Gelernter of Yale University opens a package mailed to his office. The package contains a bomb. It explodes in Gelernter’s hands, severely injuring and ultimately disfiguring him. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The school’s sprinkler system douses a small blaze started by the bomb. Gelernter is in shock from his injuries; he races down five flights of stairs to the infirmary, dripping blood and fending off bystanders with cries of “Leave me alone!” He suffers extensive injuries to his abdomen, chest, face, and hands. Within a day, the Gelernter bombing is added to the “UNABOM” list of serial bombings, along with the University of California bombing from two days earlier (see June 22, 1993). Federal authorities are dismayed that the “Unabomber” bombings have restarted after more than six years of inactivity (see February 20, 1987). Gelernter may have been targeted because of his invention of a computer language that allows desktop computers to process information in a much more powerful fashion. FBI Director William Sessions says: “The FBI will go back and look at all the bombings of a similar character. It’s the logical thing to be done, and it will be done.” [Washington Post, 6/25/1993] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996).

Entity Tags: William S. Sessions, David Gelernter, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Yale University

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities.Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities. [Source: Associated Press]Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a former University of California at Berkeley mathematics professor who now lives as a recluse in a one-room, 10-foot by 12-foot cabin in the mountains outside Lincoln, Montana, is arrested for possession of bomb components. He is subsequently proven to be the “Unabomber” (see January 22, 1998). Kaczynski is turned in to law enforcement officials by his brother David Kaczynski, who believes Kaczynski’s writings bear a marked resemblance to the Unabomber’s recently published manifesto (see September 19, 1995 and January-March 1996 and After). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998; KSPR-TV, 2011]
Tiny Cabin Filled with Evidence - The cabin lacks indoor plumbing and running water. Among other items, the cabin contains a potbellied stove, which Kaczynski used to both heat the cabin and melt the metals used in making his bombs; a hooded sweatshirt similar to the one he is depicted as wearing in the now-infamous FBI sketch released of him years earlier (see February 20, 1987); the typewriter used to type his “manifesto”; books on bomb-making and many other subjects; a homemade pistol; and other more mundane items. [Washington Post, 4/4/1996; KSPR-TV, 2011] In the days after the arrest, the FBI will reveal that two live bombs found in the cabin are nearly identical to lethal devices used by the Unabomber in 1994 and 1995, though the bureau will not give more specifics about the bombs found. “It was as if once he found the right design, he stuck with it,” an FBI official will say. [New York Times, 4/8/1996] The evidence found in the cabin sheds light on Kaczynski’s motivations for the bombings (see April 3, 1996).
FBI Had No Leads - Kaczynski is responsible for killing Hugh Scrutton and two other people (see December 10, 1994 and April 24, 1995) and injuring 29 others between 1978 and 1995. FBI officials later say that while they have tracked thousands of leads over Kaczynski’s 18-year bombing spree, they had no real clues as to his identity before his brother stepped up to identify him as a possible suspect. David Kaczynski later says that he was not sure his brother was the bomber for a very long time: “I had never seen him violent, not toward me, not toward anyone. I tended to see his anger turned inward,” he will say. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
Arrest Uneventful - The arrest comes after weeks of intensive, if unobtrusive, surveillance by the FBI along with postal inspectors and explosives specialists. Disguised as lumberjacks and outdoorsmen, the agents began slipping into Helena and the tiny hamlet of Lincoln, some 50 miles northwest of Helena and not far from the cabin. The agents learned more about Kaczynski from local residents, and found that he is essentially a hermit who rarely leaves the property. FBI snipers moved in close to the cabin and staked it out for weeks, communicating with their commanders by encrypted radios. Mostly they watched as Kaczynski tended his garden and retrieved provisions from his root cellar; during the time he was under surveillance, he never left the property. On April 3, the agents finally move in, with 40 men in body armor surrounding the cabin and proffering a search warrant. An Army ordnance team accompanies the agents, with the duty of searching for booby traps; none are found. When Kaczynski sees the agents, he tries to withdraw inside the cabins, but is restrained. Once the agents have him, Kaczynski puts up no further resistance, and as one official says, becomes “quite personable, and well spoken.” He immediately asks for a lawyer, and refuses to answer questions, though he engages in pleasant small talk with the agents. A law enforcement official, noting that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have collected a huge amount of physical and forensic evidence over the 17-year span of bombings, says, “We always believed there would come a day when all these many bits of information would begin to come together and that day was the day we executed the search warrant.” [New York Times, 4/4/1996]

Entity Tags: David Kaczynski, Percy Wood, University of California at Berkeley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hugh Scrutton, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal prosecutor Robert J. Cleary, an assistant US attorney based in Newark, New Jersey, is named the lead prosecutor in the Unabomber case (see April 3, 1996). Justice Department officials say that the government has not yet decided what charges to file against suspected bomber Theodore J. Kaczynski, though experts believe that he will be charged with the murder of advertising executive Thomas J. Mosser, killed by a mail bomb almost two years ago (see December 10, 1994). The Mosser murder, along with a second Unabomb-connected murder (see April 24, 1995), are important, legal observers say, because they are the only two cases punishable by the death penalty. Currently, Kaczynski is being held in Helena, Montana, on charges of possession of illegal explosives. He is being held without bail. Officials say they doubt that Kaczynski will be prosecuted for all 16 of the bombings he is suspected of committing, but only those that caused serious injury or death. Cleary’s prosecution team is made up of himself, Stephen P. Freccero of San Francisco, Robert Steven Lapham of Sacramento, Bernard F. Hubley of Montana, and two Justice Department lawyers, E. Thomas Roberts and J. Douglas Wilson. [New York Times, 4/12/1996] Cleary has been the US Attorney’s liaison to the Unabom task force, based in San Francisco, since Mosser’s death. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Cleary, Bernard F. Hubley, J. Douglas Wilson, Stephen P. Freccero, Robert Steven Lapham, Thomas J. Mosser, E. Thomas Roberts, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), is charged in two fatal bombings in Sacramento, California (see December 11, 1985 and April 24, 1995). [Washington Post, 1998] He is not charged with murder specifically, but with transporting and mailing explosive devices with the intent to kill and injure. [Washington Post, 11/9/1997]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Lawyers for Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), are expected to mount an insanity defense, according to the Washington Post. Kaczynski’s two lead defense attorneys are Quin Denvir, a federal public defender who has won reversals of three guilty verdicts in death penalty cases, and Judy Clarke, who convinced a South Carolina jury not to execute a woman who drowned her two children in a lake. Denvir and Clarke will argue that Kaczynski is mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that diminished his capacity to know right from wrong. Few expect Kaczynski to be found innocent of his alleged crimes; the lawyers’ strategy seems to be to keep Kaczynski from being sentenced to death. “I think it’s pretty clear that the defense is going to introduce the issue of mental disturbance one way or another,” says Paul Mattiuzzi, a forensic psychologist in Sacramento, California, who has testified in other mental defect cases. “The evidence of mental defect may be important in the guilt phase. But it may be even more valuable in the punishment phase [if he is found guilty], when the government is going to portray him as the embodiment of evil and the defense will want to argue that he’s not evil, he’s sick.” Legal experts agree. “This is what I suspect is really is going on,” says law professor Peter Arenella, an expert on insanity and diminished capacity defense. “All sorts of mitigating evidence might be presented to show that he’s a strange bird, not someone we should execute, because he’s crazy as a loon.” Prison authorities describe Kaczynski, currently being held at a federal prison in Sacramento (see June 9, 1996), as a “model prisoner” who reads incessantly. He is kept in isolation and is in his cell 23 hours a day. However, Kaczynski has so far refused to submit to psychiatric evaluation by government doctors. His refusal may hinder his lawyers’ ability to present evidence towards his mental state. The prosecution is expected to argue that Kaczynski is a cold, calculating killer who knew exactly what he was doing when he killed three people and injured 29 others. He is not charged with murder specifically, but with transporting and mailing explosive devices with the intent to kill and injure. [Washington Post, 11/9/1997]

Entity Tags: Paul Mattiuzzi, Judy Clarke, Quin Denvir, Peter Arenella, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The media reports that federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials have rejected an offer by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), to plead guilty in his murder case to avoid the death penalty. [Washington Post, 1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), interrupts the first day of his murder trial by asking to meet privately with the judge to demand replacements for his defense lawyers—and perhaps to defend himself—and to protest his brother David Kaczynski’s presence in the courtroom. [Washington Post, 1998] Kaczynski halts the proceedings before the jury enters the courtroom by telling Judge Garland Burrell Jr. that he has a “very important” statement to make about his relationship with his attorneys. “Your honor, before these proceedings begin, I would like to revisit the issue of my relationship with my attorneys,” Kaczynski says. “It’s very important. I haven’t stood because I’m under orders from the marshals not to stand up.” Kacynzski spends four hours in chamber with Burrell and his lawyers. It is believed that Kaczynski is fighting against his lawyers’ attempt to portray him as mentally ill (see November 9, 1997)—a “sickie,” as he has termed it in his journals. At least two mental health experts hired by the defense have found that Kaczynski suffers from the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic. Kaczynski has refused to be examined by government psychiatrists, and has cut off interviews with his own doctors when they broached the subject of his possible mental illness. As a result, defense attempts to present evidence that Kaczynski is mentally ill have been hampered, and prosecutors have refused to countenance any attempts at a plea bargain that would spare Kaczynski the death penalty (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski’s brother has been one of the strongest and most impassioned advocates for Kaczynski’s classification as mentally ill, which would spare Kaczynski from execution. Two victims of Kaczynski’s bombs, Charles Epstein (see June 22, 1993) and David Gelernter (see June 24, 1993), disagree; both say that Kaczynski should die for his crimes. Lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary (see April 11, 1996) demands in court that Burrell “firmly and finally” resolve the disagreements between Kaczynski and his lawyers. Burrell says he is trying, but notes that difficulties prevent him from quickly resolving the dispute: “A criminal proceeding sometimes involves dynamics that a judge has to react to,” he says. [Washington Post, 1/5/1998] Defense counsel Judy Clarke says Kaczynski “simply cannot endure” being portrayed as mentally ill, and notes that he has harbored an abiding fear throughout his life that people will consider him insane. Such resistance to being considered mentally ill is symptomatic of his paranoid schizophrenia, Clarke says. Outside the courthouse, Clarke says that Kaczynski’s request to represent himself “is a tragedy at its worst,” and denies that Kaczynski is attempting to stall the trial. “This is not manipulation. This is not cunning,” she says. “This is not someone trying to avoid legal responsibility.” Anthony Bisceglie, the lawyer for David Kaczynski, says the Kaczynski family believes that allowing him to act as his own attorney would be “to allow him to participate in a federally assisted suicide.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998] The judge will reject Kaczynski’s demands (see January 7, 1998).

Entity Tags: Judy Clarke, Charles Epstein, Anthony Bisceglie, David Gelernter, Garland E. Burrell Jr., Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Robert J. Cleary, David Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A federal judge tells Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), that he must keep his lawyers. Kaczynski has demanded to be provided with new lawyers (see January 5, 1998) and, failing that, to represent himself. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/9/1998]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

After authorities determine that Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), may have attempted to commit suicide in his jail cell, they agree to a psychiatric evaluation of his competence to stand trial and to allow him to seek to conduct his own defense. Kaczynski also agrees to the evaluation. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/8/1998] Until now, he has forcefully resisted attempts by his lawyers to present him as mentally ill (see January 5, 1998). It is believed that Kaczynski tried to hang himself in his cell with his underwear. Kaczynski told jailers that he had “lost” his underwear while in the prison shower; a search of his cell found the underwear stuffed inside a small plastic bag inside his trash can. According to Sacramento County Undersheriff Lou Blanas, the underwear was stretched out of shape consistent with being “used in the type of way we thought he did: putting it around his neck and trying to hang himself.” US Marshals have reported seeing a red rash on the right side of Kaczynski’s throat while he dressed for court, leading them to conclude he had tried to hang himself with the missing underwear sometime before leaving his cell. Kaczynski is now under 24-hour suicide watch. The judge presiding over Kaczynski’s trial, Garland Burrell Jr., is caught between trying to defend Kaczynski’s constitutional rights to participate in his own defense, and protecting Kaczynski from himself and his mental illness. The legal standard for “competency” is quite low: someone diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia, as Kaczynski has been, can still be ruled competent to stand trial. Ronald Kuby, who has stood as defense counsel in high-profile death penalty cases, says: “It is a firm principle of constitutional law… if you’re competent to stand trial you are competent to represent yourself. That’s not competence in the legally talented sense.… [I]t violates 200 years of jurisprudence and basic notions, such as the presumption of innocence, to force an insanity defense on an unwilling defendant.” Psychiatrist Robert T.M. Phillips says: “Insanity is a legal term, not a clinical term. The law defines what the components of insanity are.… Depending on the jurisdiction that you’re in, you could be a flagrant psychotic, quite schizophrenic, and still found legally sane. To the lay person it may not make sense—to some of us in the system it may not make sense. But these are rules of law, not of medicine or science.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998; Washington Post, 1/9/1998]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Ronald Kuby, Garland E. Burrell Jr., Lou Blanas, Robert T.M. Phillips

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Defense attorneys and federal prosecutors renew discussions of a plea bargain that would spare Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), the threat of the death penalty (see January 5, 1998). [Washington Post, 1998]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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