by Steven Ertelt
January 10, 2007
Buffalo, NY (LifeNews.com) — James Kopp, convicted of killing New York abortion practitioner Barnett Slepian in 1998, is on trial facing further charges related to the shooting. Defending himself in the case, Kopp had the opportunity to cross-examine Slepian’s wife on Tuesday. Instead, he apologized to her.
"Mrs. Slepian, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I respect you and your family," Kopp told Lynne Slepian after her testimony in the trial, according to an AP report.
Kopp, who has no connection to pro-life groups, is accused of violating the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which targets violent abortion protests.
Kopp goes on trial this week in federal court in Buffalo, New York and federal prosecutors hope he will be convicted of the charges. Should that happen, he faces a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.
Kopp was convicted of second-degree murder four months after confessing the shooting.
During the trial Tuesday he told the court that his actions didn’t constitute premeditated murder because he wanted to injure Slepian, not kill him.
"Shoot them in the head, blow up a car, riddle their body with bullets like they do in the movies. That’s how you kill someone" with premeditation, Kopp said. He added that Slepian’s death was "a full-bore, 100 percent tragedy."
He asked jurors to look for premeditation or malice in the case and said, "If you don’t see it, that’s me proving my case."
During his confession, made to the Buffalo News and WNBC, Kopp said he hid in the woods behind Slepian’s house and shot him with a high-powered rifle as he made dinner in his kitchen. Kopp said he was hoping just to injure the abortion practitioner, and not kill him, so he could no longer do abortions in Buffalo.
After the shooting, Kopp fled from authorities and was on the lam for about two years. A woman named Loretta Marra helped Kopp evade arrest and escape to Europe for a short time.
Kopp is serving a 25-year-to-life state sentence for the killing but is also charged with violating the FACE law and charged with using a firearm during a violent crime.
U.S. Attorney Terrance Flynn told AP that, even though Kopp will be in his 70s before he is eligible for a parole hearing, he wants to convict Kopp on the FACE charges in order to spare Slepian’s family from having to endure it.
"It was and has been from the beginning, the position of the Department of Justice that we would seek this life-without-parole conviction by a jury and that Mrs. Slepian and her four sons will never be subject to going through a parole hearing in their life," Flynn said.
Kopp is defending himself and has been preparing his defense from prison. U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara has ruled that Kopp cannot talk about his views against abortion and abortion-related buttons or clothing have been prohibited from the court chambers during the trial.
Kopp says he wants the sentence thrown out because the shooting did not take place at an abortion business, which the law addresses.
Pro-life organizations unanimously condemned the shooting and urged peaceful solutions to stopping the violence of abortion.