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Jury Favors Execution of Abortion Foe

November 04, 1994|From Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A jury recommended Thursday that a former minister get the electric chair for the shotgun slayings of an abortion doctor and his bodyguard.

Paul Hill, 40, who had claimed that killing abortion doctors is divinely sanctioned and had portrayed himself as a martyr to the cause, showed no emotion as the jury's recommendation was read.

The same jury had taken just 20 minutes Wednesday to convict Hill of murder. It took nearly four hours to choose between the death penalty and life in prison without parole.

Circuit Judge Frank Bell is not bound by the recommendation and could instead impose a life sentence. A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Barred by the judge from arguing that the slayings were justifiable homicide to save fetuses, Hill, acting as his own lawyer, offered no defense at his trial.

However, he finally spoke directly to the 12 jurors just before they began weighing his fate.

"In an effort to suppress this truth, you may mix my blood with the blood of the unborn and those who have fought to defend the oppressed," Hill said. "However, truth and righteousness will prevail. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected."

Hill ambushed Dr. John B. Britton, 69; his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James H. Barrett, 74; and Barrett's wife, June, 68, as the three arrived July 29 at the Ladies Center clinic. Mrs. Barrett was wounded but survived.

Hill, a former minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, was also convicted Oct. 5 of violating the new federal clinic-protection law. He could get up to life in prison for that offense at sentencing Dec. 9.

The federal law against using violence or otherwise harassing those entering abortion clinics was prompted by the slaying in 1993 of another abortion doctor at a second Pensacola abortion clinic.

Many abortion opponents have denounced Hill and his violence.

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