- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) 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 for today, her attorney will argue that in the current political climate, a fair jury can't be found for a case charging domestic terrorism. Prosecutors are demanding to go forward, saying the trial has been delayed long enough.
Olson attorney Shawn Snyder Chapman said she is concerned about taking her case to a jury at a time 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," Miss 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, Mrs. Olson is charged with trying to murder Los Angeles police officers by planting bombs under patrol cars in 1975 as retaliation for the deaths of six SLA members in a police shootout a few months earlier.
Miss Chapman said the charges are likely to scare jurors, even though the incident happened a quarter-century ago and the bombs did not explode.
Prosecutors adamantly oppose Miss Chapman's motion to continue the trial until January.
"There is no valid reason that the turn of international events should cause the judicial system, or any single case within it, to come to a grinding halt," Deputy District Attorneys Eleanor Hunter and Michael Latin said in court documents.
They see it as just another in a long string of delay efforts by the defense since Mrs. Olson was arrested two years ago on conspiracy and attempted murder charges.
Patricia Hearst, the one-time SLA hostage who joined her captors and donned the garb of a revolutionary, is to testify against Mrs. Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah.
Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said she doubts there will be more postponements.
"It's been postponed eight times, and who's to say that three months from now conditions will be any better," she said.
"I don't think we're going to put the criminal justice system on hiatus until we resolve the issue of terrorism."
Also, she noted, the case could have been tried months ago when the police department was under the stigma of the Rampart police corruption case that led to charges being thrown out or convictions overturned in more than 100 cases.

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