Judge Delays Rudolph Trial Until Next Year

A federal judge on Thursday delayed Eric Rudolph's (search) trial in a deadly abortion clinic bombing (search) from August until next year, ruling his lawyers needed more time to prepare.

In a brief order laying out the new schedule for the case, U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith granted the defense's request for more time and tentatively set opening arguments to begin May 24 after jury selection.

"The sheer volume of discovery that still must be organized and assimilated by defense counsel is staggering," Smith wrote.

Defense lawyer Richard Jaffe said he was pleased with the decision. U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, who opposed a delay, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Rudolph is charged with setting off a bomb that exploded outside a Birmingham abortion clinic on Jan. 29, 1998. The blast killed a police officer and critically injured a nurse.

Rudolph will stand trial later in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic park bombing (search), in which one woman died and dozens were hurt, and a pair of bombings in the Atlanta area in 1997.

Besides the defense request for additional time to go through thousands of pieces of evidence turned over by prosecutors, Smith said it would be better to hold the trial after lists of potential jurors are updated using voter lists from the November election.

In his order, Smith said the delay "is not the fault of either party."

"Indeed, the court would like to commend all counsel, both for the government and defendant, for their continuing efforts to proceed as expeditiously as possible with regard to all pretrial matters," he said.

Earlier this week, Smith approved a joint plan by prosecutors and the defense to hold Rudolph's first trial in Birmingham using jurors from throughout north Alabama instead of just the Birmingham area.

Jaffe said had not seen the order delaying the case but was happy the judge postponed the trial.

"I'm pleased that we'll have an opportunity to prepare ourselves for a trial in which finally the true facts can be placed into the capable hands of fair-minded individuals," he said.

Rudolph's lawyers had asked the judge to delay the trial until June 2005.

Jury selection will start March 23 with potential jurors filling out questionnaires, and lawyers will begin questioning potential jurors May 2, about three weeks before the estimated date for opening statements of May 24.