Judge to decide if attacks reason to delay SLA trial

Monday, October 15, 2001

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- With terrorism on Americans' minds, a judge must decide whether now is the time to start the trial of Sara Jane Olson, a former Symbionese Liberation Army radical charged with placing bombs under police cars 26 years ago.

At a hearing scheduled today, her lawyer will argue that in the political climate, a fair jury can't be found for a case alleging domestic terrorism. Prosecutors are demanding to go forward, saying the trial has been delayed long enough.

Olson lawyer Shawn Snyder Chapman said she is concerned about taking her case to a jury when the stature of police as heroes has been elevated and Americans are less inclined to question the credibility of police witnesses.

"In times of crisis, people feel more vulnerable and look to the government to protect them," Chapman said. "When police officers are so heroic, jurors don't want to question their credibility. That's what we're dealing with."

Free on $1 million bail, Olson is charged with trying to murder Los Angeles police officers by planting bombs under patrol cars in 1975. The action allegedly was to retaliate for the deaths of six SLA members in a police shootout a few months earlier.

Chapman said the allegations are likely to scare jurors, even though the incident happened a quarter-century ago and the bombs did not explode.

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