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Condemned Abortion Foe Expects 'Reward'

Paul Hill, who killed a doctor and escort at a Florida clinic, is set to be executed today.

September 03, 2003|John-Thor Dahlburg | Times Staff Writer

STARKE, Fla. — The former Presbyterian minister who is scheduled today to become the first person executed for antiabortion violence in the United States termed his death sentence an honor Tuesday and said he was convinced he had heeded God's will.

"I feel very honored they are most likely going to kill me for what I did," convicted murderer Paul Hill told reporters. "And I'm certainly, to be quite honest, expecting a great reward in heaven for my obedience."

Barring a successful last-minute legal challenge, Hill is to be given a lethal injection this evening for the slayings of Dr. John Britton, who performed abortions, and a volunteer escort. Hill fatally shot the two men as they drove into a Pensacola abortion clinic in July 1994.

Nine years later, he expressed no regrets or remorse about the slayings.

"Dr. Britton was still alive, was moving around, and I fired five more rounds until all movement stopped, laid the shotgun down and walked out toward the street with my hands by my side, awaiting arrest," Hill said Tuesday afternoon.

The antiabortion activist, wearing manacles, met with reporters for about an hour inside Florida State Prison.

The condemned man was calm and upbeat, even jocular at times, though he admitted he was "a little apprehensive" as the hour marked for his death grew nearer.

When fears have prevented him from sleeping, the 49-year-old Hill said, he has found solace in thanking God for "all sorts of mundane things."

"If I had not acted when I did, and in the way I did, I could not look myself in the mirror," Hill said.

Representatives of abortion providers have voiced concern that the execution of Hill may revive a campaign of bombings and shootings targeting abortion clinics and personnel that has been on the wane in the last several years. Hill predicted renewed violence.

"I believe in a short time or in a long time more people will act on the principles for which I stand," he said.

Hill, who served at Presbyterian churches in South Carolina and Florida before renouncing the ministry, was repeatedly asked how his religious faith could be reconciled with the premeditated shooting of a doctor. He said he had acted to protect the lives of the unborn.

"It's a moral obligation to defend the innocent," Hill said. For his deed, Hill said, he believes that he has earned a place in heaven.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to glory, there's no question about it," he said at the news conference. "I believe the moment that I'm executed that my soul will be made perfect in holiness and that I will enter into the immediate presence of the Lord."

On Aug. 27, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously turned down a plea to block Hill's execution that was filed by three of his former attorneys, ruling that they no longer had any standing in the case.

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