Proceedings Hang in Limbo

The trial of Theodore Kaczynski hung in limbo Friday as lawyers planned psychiatric tests for the murder suspect one day after his reported suicide bid.

Friday afternoon, no possibilities had been ruled out. Not even the chance that the Unabomber suspect may end up representing himself.

Kaczynski spent Thursday night in a Sacramento, Calif., jail cell for the suicidal, a camera watching his every move.

His mental health is again at center stage, and the question is holding up one of America’s highest-profile court proceedings.

On Thursday, authorities said Kaczynski tried to hang himself with his underwear and subsequently sought permission, as he has repeatedly, to fire his lawyers.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are currently meeting with psychiatrists who will examine Kaczynski. They must report to the court on whether he is competent to stand trial and whether he can represent himself. This process could take up to two weeks.

Outside court Thursday, defense attorney Judy Clarke denied her client was sabotaging the trial.

“That is absolutely not the case,” she said. “This is an unbearable situation for him.”

If U.S. marshals are correct, Kaczynski apparently reached the depths of despair sometime Wednesday night at the Sacramento County jail. He had been on a partial suicide watch since Monday when marshals warned deputies that Kaczynski was depressed, Undersheriff Lou Blanas said.

He had been a model prisoner for 18 months. But when Kaczynski arrived at court Thursday morning and changed from his inmate coveralls to dress clothes, marshals noticed that he wasn’t wearing underwear.

He also had a red mark on the right side of his neck.

Deputies found the briefs in a plastic bag in Kaczynski’s cell. Blanas said they were in a “stretched condition,” like they had been used to hang something.

Defense lawyers refused comment and it was unknown whether they knew about the apparent suicide attempt before the hearing. Prosecutors didn’t learn about it until later and a source who spoke on condition of anonymity said U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. also learned about it afterward.

Anthony Bisceglie, who represents Kaczynski’s brother, David, and mother, Wanda, said he had no doubt the act was a suicide attempt.

“The family is just devastated,” said the attorney, who has called the prospect of Kaczynski defending himself “federally assisted suicide.”

“It’s pathetic,” Bisceglie said. “I don’t know what to compare this to.”

Jurors were out of the courtroom when Kaczynski asked to represent himself Thursday. The judge sent them home with instructions to avoid news coverage. The request marked Kaczynski’s final attempt to stop his defense team from using a “mental defect” defense on his behalf, an argument designed to spare him from the death penalty.

To be competent, a defendant must show an understanding of the charges and the capability to assist in the defense.

The apparent suicide attempt and Kaczynski’s refusal to accept what may be his best defense will be issues in his competency examination, psychologist Paul Mattiuizzi said.

But neither necessarily shows that Kaczynski is incompetent, said Mattiuizzi, who does competency tests for courts in the Sacramento area.

“It may well be that being taken seriously and having his day in court are more important to him than life itself,” he said. “And that may be rational.”

Kaczynski, a brilliant math professor who retreated to the Montana woods and became a recluse, is accused of being the anti-technology zealot known as the Unabomber whose bombings over 18 years killed three and injured 29

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