Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eric Rudolph: Serial Bomber

Justice Delayed

By Rachael Bell

The trial, initially expected to take place in August 2004, was delayed due to a series of complaints made by the defense. One of the complaints made was that because of the sensationalistic nature of the case exemplified by the media, it was virtually impossible for Rudolph to get a fair trial in Birmingham. Moreover, the defense argued that they needed more time to prepare for the case. The prosecution vehemently argued against both motions but to no avail. Jury selection for the trial was delayed until early 2005.

Judy Clarke
Judy Clarke

With time on their side, the defense team dug in and set to work with a new lead counsel, attorney Judy Clarke, who had previously represented "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and "helped Susan Smith avoid the death penalty for the murder of her sons in South Carolina," the Associated Press reported in August 2004. From the onset it became clear that Clarke was going to use everything in her power to get Rudolph off the hook.

In December 2004, the defense team claimed that someone other than Rudolph was likely responsible for the Birmingham bombings. Jay Reeves stated in an Associated Press article that the defense suggested that the bomb was similar to another explosive, which was defused outside of a Birmingham police headquarters in 1996. Reeves said that no one was ever charged with planting that particular bomb. The prosecution, led by U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joey Burby argued that the explosives were unrelated, yet were still ordered by the judge to turn over the case file concerning the 1996 bomb.

The defense team also challenged evidence that they believe the FBI improperly seized from Rudolph's mobile home including, a bible, pistols, $1,600 and wig. Some of the objects were found to have had traces of explosives on them. The defense claimed that investigators did not know at the time of the search that the home was abandoned, thus making it illegal entry. If the defense was able to prove the search was illegal, then the items found in the home could not be used as evidence during trial. However, the prosecution maintained that there was no doubt that Rudolph's home was abandoned and that he purposely did so to escape the authorities.

Magistrate Judge Michael Putnam agreed with the prosecution stating that investigators did indeed conduct a legal search of the premises. He further stated that all evidence taken from the property was admissible in court. Yet, according to, "Putnam's decision is only a recommendation to the trial judge in the case" and can be over-ruled.

In another move by the defense, a motion was made to have an expert handwriting analyst's testimony barred from trial. A black bible found at the defendants home, which had the word "bomb" written in it was analyzed by Carl R. McClary of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He was able to match the writing in the bible with other samples of Rudolph's handwriting. The defense maintained that the analysis didn't, "meet the scientific standards required to be introduced at Rudolph's upcoming trial," Reeves reported in a January Associated Press article. It is not known yet if the testimony will be allowed at court. The trial is scheduled for March 2005. With all the legal wrangling, there is concern that the date might be pushed up even farther making many wonder if justice will ever be served in the Rudolph case. 

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