Anti-Abortion Extremist Eric Rudolph Could Face Death Penalty if Convicted

US District Court Judge C Lynwood Smith ruled that anti-abortion extremist Eric Robert Rudolph could be tried under a federal arson law, which would allow him to face the death penalty if convicted. According to the Associated Press, the defense attorneys pushed for Rudolph to be tried under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act—which prohibits not only violence against abortion providers, clinic staff, patients, and volunteers, but also threats of violence—and only carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Rudolph is facing charges of the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama women’s health clinic, which killed an off-duty police officer and severely maimed a nurse. Smith also recently set back the date for preliminary jury selection, from March 23 to April 6, the Associated Press reports. This could also delay opening arguments, which are set for the end of May. Rudolph is currently being held in solitary confinement in the Jefferson County jail in Alabama.

Rudolph is also accused of bombing an Atlanta-area abortion clinic in 1997, a lesbian and gay nightclub in Atlanta, and the Atlanta Olympic Park in 1996, which killed one person and injured 111 others. Rudolph was captured last May in North Carolina after eluding authorities for five years. He was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list in 1998 after the Birmingham clinic bombing.

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Associated Press 3/1/05, 3/5/05; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 3/7/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 6/25/04

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