BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Lawyers for Eric Rudolph (search) attacked a key prosecution witness Friday in their first detailed response to charges that the serial bombing suspect set off a deadly explosion outside an abortion clinic.
The defense filing also focused on evidence that someone else could have committed the 1998 bombing at the clinic in Birmingham.
"They have no direct evidence that Eric Rudolph placed the explosive device at the clinic," the filing said.
Rudolph is charged in the abortion clinic bombing, which killed a policeman and critically injured a nurse, and in the 1996 Olympic park blast that killed a woman in Atlanta. He also is accused of setting off more bombs in Atlanta in 1997.
The defense claims Friday were laid out in a document seeking access to the handwritten notes taken by government agents as they investigated the Birmingham bombing, which is expected to be the first case to go to trial.
In the filing, the defense said a key government witness, a college dormitory resident referred to only as "J.H.," gave statements about tracking a man believed to be Rudolph from the clinic the morning of the blast. But those statements were filled with "inconsistencies and discrepancies," Rudolph's attorneys said.
Separately, the defense said witnesses told of seeing a gray Nissan Maxima and three men acting suspiciously near the clinic the night before the bomb went off. Rudolph drove a gray Nissan pickup truck, not a Maxima, which is a car.
The defense said a dark-colored Nissan Maxima, possibly with a Birmingham-area license plate, was seen shortly after the Olympic park bombing.
And an abortion protester who lived on the same block as the clinic had bomb-making manuals, watched videos about bombings and had a white pickup — not unlike the vehicle one witness saw leaving the clinic area after the bombing, according to Rudolph lawyers.
Prosecutors had no immediate response Friday to the defense arguments. But they have said that in addition to credible witness testimony, they have forensic evidence that ties Rudolph to the bombing, including explosive materials found in his truck and home in North Carolina.
The are seeking the death penalty in the case, scheduled for trial next year.
In previously released sworn statements, two FBI agents said a witness heard the blast and looked out a window to see a man walking away from the explosion. The witness followed the man through a neighborhood before losing him and seeing him again outside a McDonald's restaurant, according to the agents. Prosecutors claim the man was Rudolph, whose truck was later spotted in the area by J.H. and another person.
But in the defense document, Rudolph's lawyers argued that the person they identify as J.H. said different things about the bombing at different times.