Theodore Kaczynski’s lawyers abandoned plans for a psychiatric defense Monday after the Unabomber suspect refused to be examined by government experts and resisted any attempt to portray him as a madman.
The defense served notice that it will not call mental health experts as witnesses during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial, which begins next Monday.
Kaczynski’s lawyers could still make an issue of his mental state during the life-or-death penalty phase if he is found guilty.
Kaczynski, 55, a Harvard-educated mathematician-turned-hermit, is accused of crafting bombs that killed two people a decade apart in Sacramento and maimed two others. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
The defense has made it clear in hundreds of pages of pretrial documents that it believes Kaczynski suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and could not form the intent to kill anyone. But defense experts have also said in court documents that Kaczynski doesn’t believe he has any mental problems.
In fact, Kaczynski apparently tried to fire his lawyers over the issue, and once became agitated in court over talk of his mental state.
The brief notice filed by Kaczynski’s public defenders Monday said merely that they were withdrawing their “12.2B notice,” a reference to the section of federal law dealing with mental defects and the calling of expert witnesses on the issue.
Both the prosecution and the defense declined to comment on the filing.
The defense first gave notice of the plan for a mental defect defense last June, and at least five hearings have been held on the issue since then.
The defense encountered a major roadblock when Kaczynski refused to be examined by government psychiatrists. Prosecutors argued that they could not answer a mental defense without such an examination, and they asked U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. to bar psychiatric evidence.
Kaczynski refused to budge on the issue until last week, when his lawyers revealed in court he had offered to undergo limited tests and abandon the mental defect defense during the guilt-or-innocence phase if the government would agree to let him use schizophrenia as an argument to save his life during the penalty phase. The government turned him down.
They said his offer to have questions submitted to him through his lawyers was insufficient for a psychiatric analysis.
Laurie Levenson, associate dean of Loyola University Law School, said the defense move does not preclude friends and relatives from alluding during the guilt-or-innocence part of the trial to Kaczynski’s apparent mental problems.
“The defense can still present circumstantial evidence that he could not form the intent to kill,” Levenson said. “All this means is that they can’t call the experts they couldn’t call anyway because he refused to be examined.”
Kaczynski’s brother, David, who first told the FBI his brother might be the Unabomber, is expected to testify at some point. He could detail the troubled childhood of the professor who gave up a promising career to hide in the Montana woods.
Levenson added that the defense may be counting on the fact that “the jury will infer a defense that isn’t argued.”