Federal prosecutors preparing for the murder trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski have requested that Attorney General Janet Reno seek the death penalty in the case, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.
The closely held request, forwarded to a special Justice Department panel reviewing the case, came despite the fact that Kaczynski’s relatives, who played a key role in his arrest, asked that his life be spared if he is convicted.
There also are questions about Kaczynski’s mental state. A final decision on the matter could be made public as early as today, sources confirmed Wednesday.
Prosecutors decided that while they were mindful of Kaczynski’s family’s wishes and other factors, the death penalty was warranted because they had uncovered volumes of evidence suggesting that the suspect was cold, calculating and exacting over 17 years of bombings that killed three people and injured 23 others. They also had to consider the families of the victims.
Investigators removed more than 6,000 pages of notes from Kaczynski’s Montana cabin, much of it in diary-like form in which the suspect allegedly discusses his victims, sources said.
Consideration of whether to pursue the execution of Kaczynski was a difficult and wrenching process, the source said.
Grand juries in California and New Jersey have indicted Kaczynski on charges relating to the bombing deaths, as well as several other attacks.
The 54-year-old, Harvard-educated mathematician is suspected of carrying out a reign of terror that was the focus of the longest manhunt in U.S. history.
Law enforcement officials were stymied in their attempts to track down the bomber. It was only after reading the Unabomber’s “manifesto,” published by the Washington Post and New York Times in 1995, that Kaczynski’s brother David recognized aspects of his brother Ted’s thinking and writing.
The family, through Washington attorney Anthony P. Bisceglie, has petitioned Reno to spare Kaczynski’s life partly because they believe he is mentally ill, arguing that under U.S. law this is a “mitigating factor” against capital punishment.
Family members contend that Kaczynski’s writings, including some to his family, portray a man deeply troubled.
“Our interest from the beginning was to protect life, and if this government were to process this like a cold and calculative machine, I would have to conclude my faith in that system was misplaced,” brother David Kaczynski said. “What would a future family member in a similar situation think if I were repaid with my brother’s death?”