A federal judge approved a plan Tuesday to try serial bombing suspect Eric Rudolph in Birmingham but pick jurors from throughout northern Alabama, instead of just a three-county area around the state’s largest city.
U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith approved the joint proposal that had been agreed to by defense attorneys and federal prosecutors. Rudolph had been seeking a change of venue.
U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said she was glad the Rudolph trial will be in Birmingham. Rudolph is accused of setting the Jan. 29, 1998, bomb outside New Woman All Women Health Care that killed officer Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons.
“I think it’s important for the community, the victims and their families,” Martin said. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Rudolph also is charged in the bombing that killed a woman in Atlanta’s Olympic park in 1996 and a pair of bombings in Atlanta in 1997, outside a gay nightclub and an office building that housed an abortion clinic. He became a fugitive after the Birmingham bombing and was arrested last year in Murphy, N.C.
The venue agreement brought a quick end to a hearing on a defense motion to move Rudolph’s trial out of Birmingham. Wearing a bulletproof vest, Rudolph had arrived in court amid tight security for what was expected to be two days of arguments.
Rudolph told the judge he understood and approved of the agreement to try him in Birmingham but expand the jury pool.
Defense attorney Richard Jaffe, who informed the judge of the settlement, said it was “a true effort on behalf of all parties to reach a compromise.”
Rudolph is scheduled for trial Aug. 2. Smith said he will rule soon on a defense motion to delay the trial for as long as a year.
The judge laid out in court a preliminary plan for jury selection. He said he is considering calling as many as 500 people from across north Alabama to fill out jury questionnaires.