Eric Rudolph

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In a victory for Eric Rudolph, a federal judge said he will review notes taken by FBI agents investigating a deadly abortion clinic bombing to determine whether there's anything behind defense claims of inconsistencies in key witnesses statements.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith, in a decision made public yesterday, overturned a magistrate judge and agreed to look at the original, handwritten notes that were used to compile typed witness statements challenged by attorneys defending Rudolph against death penalty charges.

Rudolph is jailed in Birmingham awaiting trial next spring in a 1998 explosion that killed a police officer and critically injured a nurse outside a downtown abortion clinic. He also is accused in the 1996 Olympic park blast that killed a woman in Atlanta and two more bombings in Atlanta in 1997.

Rudolph's lawyers said were numerous inconsistencies with the government's case in Birmingham, including witness descriptions of people seen near the clinic and the bomber's apparent path away from the area after the blast.

Rudolph has pleaded not guilty in the bombing.