Kaczynski competent, lawyers agree

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Both sides in the Unabomber trial agreed that Theodore Kaczynski is competent to stand trial — the basic requirement for acting as his own lawyer — but the judge suggested that his request to represent himself came too late.
U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. said Kaczynski had clearly agreed to proceed with his lawyers after a series of meetings with the judge in December. Later, Kaczynski changed his mind.
Burrell suggested that if Kaczynski wanted to be his own lawyer, he should have made the motion when the trial began.
“We’re not in a pretrial hearing,” the judge said. “We’re in trial. This case commenced on Nov. 12, 1997.”
The continuing dispute between Kaczynski and his lawyers centers on their desire to mount a defense based on his mental state. Kaczynski is adamantly opposed and wants to base his defense on his anti-technology views.
Government prosecutor Robert Cleary suggested that changes could be made up until the time that a jury is seated but he conceded that case law on the subject isn’t clear. Cleary noted that the jury, chosen Dec. 22, has not yet been sworn.
Burrell rejected a government bid to see more of the transcripts of his private meetings with the defendant, who could get the death penalty if convicted.
“Statements by Mr. Kaczynski could be used by the government in its attempt to kill him,” said the judge. “That’s a deadly serious matter.
“I can understand why the defense doesn’t want to release more of what Kaczynski said. They would be helping the government in its quest to obtain its objective.”
Defense lawyers agreed to stipulate that Kaczynski is competent to stand trial after reviewing a 47-page report by Dr. Sally Johnson, a federal prison psychiatrist who interviewed him for 19 hours last week.
Her report was kept sealed. But late Tuesday the judge released Johnson’s cover letter, in which she wrote: “It is my opinion that despite the psychiatric diagnosis described in the attached report, Mr. Kaczynski is not suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent.”
The cover letter did not disclose the diagnosis. But Johnson said Kaczynski was not “unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings filed against him or to assist his attorneys in his own defense.”
Burrell, whose comments were as forceful as any he has made since the case began, said he was intent on going ahead with opening statements Thursday morning. He said he would resolve the representation issue that morning and have the jury report for duty at 10 a.m.
Burrell said he had contacted San Francisco lawyer Tony Serra — who had offered Kaczynski his services — but Serra’s office said the earliest he would be available was September.
“Tentatively, I’m not inclined to bring in new lawyers,” Burrell said.
Kaczynski’s public defenders, Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke, have made it clear they don’t plan to completely abandon a mental defense, despite Kaczynski’s objections to being portrayed as — in his words — “a sickie.”
The judge said his only concern is “an ambiguity” in the record of his meetings with Kaczynski and the defense lawyers. Kaczynski may have believed that when the defense agreed not to use mental health experts in the guilt phase of the trial, they would not raise the mental issue at all, Burrell said.
“I am still analyzing the record in regard to this matter,” he said.
Kaczynski apparently balked when he found out that Clarke intended to show jurors pictures of Kaczynski as the Harvard-educated math professor and later as the hairy, wild-eyed Montana hermit arrested in April 1996.
The defense also plans to use lay witnesses, possibly including Kaczynski’s brother, to show a pattern of mental illness in the defendant’s childhood.
Kaczynski’s mother, Wanda, and brother, David, sat in a front row of the packed courtroom for Tuesday’s hearing. David, who first alerted the government that his brother might be the elusive Unabomber, has protested the government’s decision to seek the death penalty.
Kaczynski is charged in a 10-count indictment with attacks that maimed two scientists and killed two Sacramento men. Prosecutors also hope to link him to all attacks attributed to the anti-technology Unabomber that killed three people and injured 29 over 18 years.
Clarke and Denvir also filed court papers Tuesday seeking any information the government may have related to “secret shacks” that Kaczynski may have built in the Montana wilderness.
Kaczynski’s journals refer to such hideouts, saying he needed them because “there’s no place to escape civilization” and he hoped to have “one place at least where I can still feel sure of privacy.”