Anti-abortion extremist James Kopp pleaded not guilty to a second murder charge yesterday, after a grand jury indicted him last week for “reckless or depraved murder” in addition to an original charge of intentional murder. The new charge came after Kopp’s jailhouse confession in the sniper-style killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo obstetrician/gynecologist and abortion provider. Despite admitting to the fatal shooting, Kopp will plead “not guilty” because he claims his intention was to wound Dr. Slepian, not kill him. The jury in Kopp’s upcoming February charge must choose between the two charges, according to prosecutors.
During yesterday’s court proceedings, Kopp made it clear that his defense will center around his anti-abortion viewpoints when he told Erie County Judge Michael D’Amico that the charges against him are really about “the murder of children” by abortion providers, according to the Buffalo News. D’Amico told Kopp to put his argument in writing, the News reported. Meanwhile, outside the courtroom Bruce Barket, Kopp’s chief attorney in his state trial, reiterated this strategy. “Factually there’s no dispute,” Barket said, according to the News. “We know what happened, but what is in dispute is the morality of abortion.”
Kopp shot and killed Slepian while he stood in the kitchen of his Buffalo home October 23, 1998. For the next two and a half years, Kopp, who was an early suspect in the murder, evaded authorities until he was apprehended in France in 2001. If Kopp is convicted of the murder, he faces 25 years to life in prison. Kopp, who was at one time on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, is not only facing charges in Slepian’s murder, but also has been indicted for the 1995 shooting of Ontario abortion provider Dr. Hugh Short and is the primary suspect in three separate shootings of abortion providers in Canada and New York.