BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Hundreds of prospective jurors reported to a hotel ballroom Wednesday in the trial of Eric Rudolph (search), who faces a possible death penalty in the bombing of an abortion clinic seven years ago.
The potential jurors, called from 31 counties in northern Alabama, will complete lengthy questionnaires gauging their opinions on topics including capital punishment, abortion and federal law enforcement.
The session, which was closed to the public, was held in the ballroom of a downtown hotel because the federal courthouse couldn't accommodate the 500 people who were summoned.
Rudolph waived his right to attend the start of jury selection. He gave no reason. He was being held in the Jefferson County jail, which overlooks the hotel from across an interstate highway.
Rudolph is charged with setting off a remote-controlled bomb that killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured a nurse outside a Birmingham abortion clinic on Jan. 29, 1998.
A jury of 12 members and six alternates will be selected as soon as next month for the trial, which court officials said could last four months.
U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith Jr. has indicated testimony won't begin until the conclusion of the trial of former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy (search), who is being tried on corporate fraud charges in the same courtroom where Rudolph is to be tried.
Rudolph also is accused of killing a woman with a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics (search) in 1996 and setting two bombs that went off in metro Atlanta in 1997.
He vanished after a man driving his pickup truck was seen in Birmingham near the scene of the clinic bombing. He was captured in 2003 in North Carolina.