Unabomber To Request Trial

Ever since he pleaded guilty to save his life, Theodore Kaczynski has insisted he wants to go to trial for the Unabomber killings and present his own defense -- even if it means facing a possible death sentence.

On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals moved him one step closer to his goal, agreeing to hear his request -- filed from federal prison in Colorado -- to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial.

The court said it would consider whether Kaczynski's guilty plea was voluntary; whether he was properly denied the right to represent himself; and whether a defendant, in a death penalty trial, has a right to prevent his court-appointed lawyer from presenting evidence of mental impairment as a defense.

The court found that he had made a substantial showing that his constitutional rights were violated.

Kaczynski, a Harvard-trained mathematician who became a forest recluse, pleaded guilty in January 1998 to mail bombings that killed three people and injured 23. Two of the killings were in Sacramento and the third was in New Jersey. Kaczynski's statements have connected the attacks to his campaign against technology.

The Justice Department agreed to the plea and life sentence after a psychiatric examination, arranged by Kaczynski's lawyers over his objections, concluded he was a paranoid schizophrenic but competent to stand trial.

Kaczynski had wanted to present a defense based on his views about technology and the environment. But his attempts to represent himself or bring in a lawyer who would argue his chosen defense were rejected by U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell of Sacramento, who said the requests were made too late and would delay the case unduly.

Burrell later refused to let Kaczynski set his guilty plea aside and found that his arguments were not serious enough to justify an appeal.

The order "took an enormous amount of courage," for Kaczynski, said Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor who helped Kaczynski with his legal filing.

Written By Bob Egelko