BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Court officials have summoned about 500 people for preliminary jury selection in the trial of Eric Rudolph (search), who is accused in the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in which a police officer was killed.
Potential jurors are to report to a hotel ballroom Wednesday to fill out a lengthy questionnaire meant to gauge their knowledge of the federal death penalty case, and their attitudes about issues including capital punishment, the government and abortion.
Former government attorney Don Cochran said prosecutors will try to weed out people who strongly dislike the federal government, an attitude Rudolph has been described as sharing.
"The defense, obviously, wants to have these type of jurors on the jury," said Cochran, who teaches law at Samford University in suburban Birmingham.
He has been linked to anti-abortion groups. But Cochran said abortion opponents are typically conservative and "are generally considered to be good prosecution jurors."
Rudolph is also charged in the fatal bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the bombing of a lesbian bar and the bombing of a building that housed an Atlanta abortion clinic in 1997.
The process is taking place at a hotel because the jury pool is large and the federal courthouse is busy with the corporate fraud trial of former HealthSouth Corp. chief Richard Scrushy (search).
U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith has indicated the Rudolph case will not begin until the end of the Scrushy case, which could last through May.
Rudolph, arrested in North Carolina in 2003 after more than five years on the run, has been given permission to skip Wednesday's opening session of jury selection, which is closed to the public.