Jury selection began yesterday in the trial of anti-abortion extremist James Kopp, who confessed to the sniper-style killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo, NY obstetrician/gynecologist and abortion provider. Potential jurors, to be chosen from a pool of 600 people, began filling out a 16-page questionnaire that included several questions about their views on abortion and religion. With defense attorney Bruce Barket expected to turn the trial into a “forum on abortion” arguing that Kopp’s shooting of Slepian was “justifiable homicide,” jurors’ opinions on abortion could come into play, according to the Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report.
“Everybody, obviously, unless you’ve been living in a cave, would have an opinion about abortion,” Joe Marusak, Erie County prosecutor, told the Hamilton Spectator. “We’re just looking for people who will be able to not allow their opinion of abortion influence their finding of the facts and applying the law to the facts.”
Kopp, who killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998 while he was fixing dinner inside his home, is currently being held in a Buffalo jail after evading authorities for two-and-a-half years. DNA evidence has been found linking Kopp to the attempted murder of Canadian doctor Hugh Short, who was shot in his home in 1995. Kopp also is the prime suspect in the sniper-style shootings of three other abortion providers.
With jury selection expected to be complete by March 17, testimony will then begin on state charges of second-degree murder and “murder with depraved indifference to life” against Kopp, which could carry a maximum of 25 years in prison. Kopp will later face federal charges under the Freedom Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) of using deadly force against an abortion provider.
Media Resources: Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 3/4/03; Hamilton Spectator 3/1/03; Associated Press 3/3/03