The Unabomber: Trial to look inside mind of America's most wanted man

The trial of the Montana hermit identified as the Unabomber opens today. The argument will not turn on whether he is guilty of conducting a 17-year bombing campaign, but on whether he is mentally ill.

Tim Cornwell
Wednesday 12 November 1997 00:02 GMT

"To get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we've had to kill people."

So wrote the Unabomber in his 35,000-word manifesto, in which he advocated revolution against the industrial system and claimed to be part of a shadowy group called "FC". FC, or Freedom Club, as the FBI claims the letters stood for, was stamped in metal on parts of some of the 16 bombs dispatched by the Unabomber.

But FC never existed, it is alleged, except in the writings of 55-year- old Theodore Kaczynski, a former Berkeley maths professor who goes on trial in Sacramento today. Mr Kaczynski is charged with the murders of computer store owner Hugh Scrutton in 1985 and timber lobbyist Gilbert Murray 10 years later. He is also charged with sending two bombs in 1993 that injured a Yale computer scientist and a University of California geneticist.

Prosecutors say they will also tie him to 12 other bombings that made the Unabomber the subject of the FBI's longest manhunt and accorded him near-legendary status in the annals of US crime. He is also accused of nearly downing a passenger jet.

The American media has afforded Mr Kaczynski not the merest glimmer of doubt. The trial is expected to turn largely on the question of whether his lawyers, backed by his family, can persuade jurors to spare him the death penalty. Prosecutors say Mr Kaczynski is condemned by his own words. A hand-written autobiography, journals and a numeric code, which "together contain admissions or inculpatory statements to each of the 16 bombing incidents", were found in his Montana cabin.

His attorneys admit they are his. Just as Mr Kaczynski meticulously hand- crafted his lethal parcels, so he carefully recorded the results. They prove that from as early as 1966, the chronically shy Mr Kaczynski, a young prodigy who dropped out of a promising academic career, formed a "desire to kill", the government says.

"Experiment 97. 11 December 1985, I planted bomb disguised to look like scrap of lumber behind Rentech Compute Store in Sacramento." This was the entry marking Mr Murray's death. "According to San Francisco Examiner, Dec 20, the `operator' (owner? manager?) of the store was killed, `blown to bits'."

In 1981 a bomb was discovered and defused at the University of Utah. "I attempted a bombing and spent nearly 300 bucks just for travel expenses, motel, clothing for disguise, etc," the journals read. "The thing failed to explode. Damn."

In November 1979 an incendiary bomb exploded in the hold of an American Airlines jet en route to Washington, forcing an emergency landing.

"In some of my notes I mentioned a plan for revenge on society," Mr Kaczynski wrote a month later. "Plan was to blow up one airliner in flight. Late summer and early autumn I constructed device."

The friendless Mr Kaczynski lived in Montana in a tiny shack for 20 years, honing his arguments that industrial technology was the bane of humankind.

In 1995, his manifesto was published by American newspapers in return for a promised end to his bombing campaign. It led his suspicious younger brother, David Kaczynski, to turn him in. Agents also recovered a handwritten draft of the manifesto and a carbon copy of the type-written version sent to the New York Times.

With jury selection expected to last up to a month, David Kaczynski leads those pleading for mercy, arguing that though his brother had an IQ of 170, he was disturbed. The defence are expected to argue that Mr Kaczynski, if not insane, is worthy of compassion. But he has not helped himself by refusing to be examined by government psychiatrists.

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