updated 4/6/2005 7:29:58 PM ET 2005-04-06T23:29:58

About 340 prospective jurors gathered in a hotel ballroom Wednesday to answer questions in the first step of a trial for serial bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, who faces capital charges in a fatal blast at an Alabama abortion clinic.

Potential jurors from 31 counties in northern Alabama filled out forms that court documents indicate could include questions about their knowledge of the case and attitudes on the death penalty. Rudolph waived his right to attend the start of jury selection but gave no reason.

Rudolph is charged with setting off a remote-controlled bomb in 1998 that killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured a nurse outside a Birmingham abortion clinic. He could be sentenced to die if convicted of using a deadly explosive at a building engaged in interstate commerce — the clinic — and setting off the explosion during a crime.

Wednesday’s closed session was held in the ballroom of a downtown hotel because the federal courthouse couldn’t accommodate the 500 people who were initially summoned for potential jury duty. Court officials said dozens were dismissed for hardships such as poor health, and some didn’t show up.

Trial could last four months
A 12-member jury 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 fraud trial of former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy.

Scrushy’s trial, in the same courtroom where Rudolph is to be tried, is in its 11th week and has been marked by several delays. Opening statements in Rudolph’s case aren’t expected to begin until late May or June.

Separately, Rudolph also faces charges of killing a woman with a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and setting two bombs that went off in metro Atlanta in 1997.

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