Analysis: What if a jury heard the anthrax case
Saturday, August 9, 2008; 11:05 AM
-- The Justice Department laid out its case this past week that Army scientist Bruce Ivins mailed the anthrax powder that killed five people in 2001. Ivins committed suicide at his home near Fort Detrick, Md., which means the evidence gathered by the FBI and U.S. Postal Service inspectors will never be tested in an adversarial setting.
Based on Associated Press reporting on the investigation, the FBI documents released last week and interviews with lawyers, here is a look at what could have been opening statements from the government and the defense if Ivins had lived and the case had gone to trial.
For the prosecution:
Far less than one in a million. Those are the chances that the anthrax used to murder five people in late 2001 could have come from any place other than a flask kept by Dr. Bruce Ivins.
The same genetically unique anthrax strain, RMR-1029, which Bruce Ivins himself created. No other lab in the world stored RMR-1029 and nobody could obtain it without going through him.
That scientific evidence, combined with the other evidence the government plans to introduce in this case, will show beyond a reasonable doubt that Bruce Ivins is the man who killed five innocent victims in two separate mailings.
The evidence will show that shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this world-renowned anthrax expert began working odd hours in his lab _ past midnight, during weekends _ when no other researchers were around; something he had never done before; something he would never do again once the anthrax letters were mailed.
The evidence will show a man under great strain at the time. His anthrax vaccine work was being heavily criticized, and his program in danger of being shut down.
Days after the first letters were sent, Bruce Ivins wrote an e-mail about people in his group therapy sessions and their reactions to 9/11, calling himself "the only scary one in the group."
He also wrote that Osama bin Laden had anthrax and wanted to kill Americans and Jews _ language that would be used a short time later in the letters included in the deadly envelopes.
The evidence will show that Bruce Ivins regularly drove long hours at night to deliver or mail packages, just as he did in this case. It will show his obsession with the sorority whose office is mere feet away from the mailbox in Princeton, N.J., where he posted the letters. It will show that the pre-stamped envelopes used to mail the anthrax, despite being mailed in New Jersey, very likely came from a post office near his home.