James Kopp, who was convicted under New York state law for the 1998 murder of an abortion provider in Buffalo, NY, started his federal trial yesterday on charges that he violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. According to the AP, Kopp is facing a third charge for using a weapon in a violent crime. He is also suspected in four nonfatal shootings of abortion providers in Rochester, New York and Canada.
The federal trial began with the testimony of Lynne Slepian, the widow of Kopp's victim, Dr. Barnett Slepian. She recounted to the court the evening of the shooting when Kopp murdered her husband by firing a high-powered military rifle into their kitchen. Following her testimony, Kopp, who is defending himself, quietly apologized to Ms. Slepian, saying "I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I respect you and your family," the Associated Press reports. He then announced he would not cross-examine Ms. Slepian.
According to the Guelph Mercury, a Canadian paper, Kopp tried to convince the court that he did not maliciously premeditate the murder of Dr. Slepian, despite having planned the shooting for a year; he claims that he was only trying to wound the doctor to prevent him from performing abortions. If convicted on the federal charges, he would likely receive life without parole, which would mean that the Slepian family would never have to endure a parole hearing, the Hamilton Spectator reports.
Anti-abortion extremists in the US have murdered seven abortion providers and have attempted murder 17 times, according to the National Abortion Federation. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Violence Survey, 18.4 percent of all abortion providers experience "severe violence" at least once during the year.