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June 10, 2023

Infamous murderer, the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, dies in federal prison

The death of the infamous Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, seems worth blogging in part because the threat of the death penalty seemingly played a role in Kaczynski's willingness to plead guilty and accept multiple LWOP federal sentences.  (Also, in my sentencing classes, I have long used the rich facts of Kaczynski's crimes and history to explore with students capital sentencing theories and procedures.)  This lengthy Washington Post piece provides lots of details about his life and crimes, and here are short excerpts:

For 17 years, he picked his victims with cold deliberation, leaving a grisly trail of nail- and razor-blade-packed pipe bombs across the nation that killed three people and injured 23 others, several of them maimed for life.

He knew none of his victims and struck unpredictably from coast to coast in seemingly random acts from 1978 to 1995, baffling law enforcement officers and gripping the country in a kind of menacing unease — until his capture in early 1996 in the remote mountains of Montana.  There, Ted Kaczynski, the scrawny, bearded anti-technology anarchist popularly known as the Unabomber, surrendered peaceably at the primitive plywood cabin he had called home for 25 years....

The Harvard-trained mathematics prodigy turned lone serial bomber died June 10 at a federal prison medical facility in Butner, N.C.  He was 81.... Tracking down the Unabomber led to one of the nation’s longest and most expensive investigations. Then came years of research tracing his habits, propensities and psychological markers.  Still, a veil of mystery remained over the ultimate purpose of his acts beyond simple anger at a world that wouldn’t listen to him....

In September 1995, he sent his manifesto, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” to The Post and the Times....  The rambling prose seemed eerily familiar to David Kaczynski, a social worker at an Albany, N.Y., shelter for runaway youths. He began to suspect, reluctantly, that his brother was the Unabomber....

David took his suspicions to the FBI, and analysts quickly spotted close parallels in phraseology, even misspellings. Directed by David, agents massed at the cabin in the Montana woods on April 3, 1996, and took Ted into custody. Inside the cabin, they found a cache of bombmaking components.  David received the FBI’s $1 million reward and said he would use it to aid families who suffered because of his brother’s actions.

On Jan. 22, 1998, after extensive legal jockeying to avoid both the death penalty and an insanity defense, Mr. Kaczynski pleaded guilty and acknowledged all 16 bombings and the deaths and injuries they caused.  Unrepentant, he was sentenced to four consecutive life terms plus 30 years by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. in Sacramento.

UPDATE: The latest reporting is that Kaczynski killed himself as noted in this New York Post headline: "Unabomber Ted Kaczynski reportedly committed suicide inside his jail cell."

June 10, 2023 at 02:30 PM | Permalink


Shouldn’t he have been let out due to his age?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 10, 2023 3:31:12 PM

Two high profile Florence ADX prisoners Robert Hansen and now the unabomber dying of natural causes within a week or two of each other? Sounds pretty suspicious to me.

Posted by: Suspicion | Jun 11, 2023 12:25:49 AM

To be sure, the Unabomber had been moved to Butner, but still...

Posted by: Suspicion | Jun 11, 2023 12:33:42 AM

Latest reporting, as I have indicated in a post update, is that Kaczynski "let himself out" by committing suicide.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 11, 2023 11:22:48 AM

Doug: If he had end-stage cancer, he would have been on a BOP Hospice Unit inside the Federal Medical Center. The BOP doesn't let inmates have much that could be used for committing one's self -- just sheets, towels and orange jumpsuits. I did see occasional inmates take blades from disposable razors and then hand in the re-assembled razor without the blade. The mirrors in inmates' cells are made from polished steel, not glass. I did once know of an inmate at USP-1, Coleman, Florida, who found a glass mirror in a bathroom in the Education Department, which he broke and then used the broken glass to slash his veins lengthwise, so as to bleed to death. He was serving a life sentence for shooting a bank guard to death during a California bank robbery. While robbing a bank, he told everyone to lay down on the floor, but he neglected to notice that the bank guard was armed. He turned around to see the guard trying to pull his pistol out of its holster, and killed him. The inmate had lost communications with all of his family members and friends during 23 years of incarceration, so he decided to kill himself. Successful suicides inside the BOP are relatively rare.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 11, 2023 7:41:54 PM

TarlsQtr --

"Shouldn’t he have been let out due to his age?"

There you go again. Where's your compassion? They should ALL be let out due to [you name it].

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 12, 2023 11:00:49 AM

The Unabomber was a sad story of a person who lost his way and gave in to his evil impulses and arrogance.

One of the problems today is that "Green" worshippers in positions of power think that they have the right to tell the rest of us what to do, and they, alas, will kill a lot more people than the Unabomber ever dreamed of.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 9:51:51 AM

Bill, the Unabomber was just misguided--years of incarceration certainly made him see the error of his ways. He's gone now, but we need to find the next poster child. The world needs to re-remember Mumia Abu-Jamal and get him out. After all, locking him in a cage makes us a less free society.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 11:34:54 AM

federalist --

Right you are!! They're all just misunderstood.

These guys do crack me up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 13, 2023 2:21:05 PM

Free Mumia!!! Right Doug? After all our status as a free society is at stake . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 2:43:10 PM

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