Toronto

Murder trial begins for anti-abortion activist

The trial of a man who has admitted to shooting a doctor to death as a protest against abortion began Monday in Buffalo, New York.

The trial of a man who has admitted to shooting a doctor to death as a protest against abortion began Monday in Buffalo, New York.

James Kopp claims he was just trying to wound Dr. Barnett Slepian, not kill him, when he shot the off-duty doctor through a window of his suburban Buffalo home.

If convicted, Kopp could face up to 25 years in prison.

He's also charged in the attempted murder of Dr. Hugh Short, an Ancaster, Ont. gynecologist who was shot in November 1995.

Police also consider Kopp a "person of interest" in the shootings of two doctors in Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The trial is expected to spotlight the extreme elements of the anti-abortion movement in the U.S., which encourage people to use violence to protect the unborn.

Rev. Donald Spitz runs a Virginia-based Web site for a group called Army of God, part of the small minority of abortion opponents that condones violence.

"I believe what James Kopp did was a righteous deed," Spitz said Sunday.

"Barnett Slepian would have by this time murdered probably a thousand more babies. Who is more important, a thousand innocent babies being put to death or one baby killer?"

The lawyer for Slepian's family said Kopp would use his trial to espouse his views on abortion.

"To me, James Kopp is a terrorist. He committed a murder in an effort to eliminate an abortion provider and to terrorize other abortion providers," said Glen Edward.

Last week, Kopp choose not to be tried by a jury.

His lawyer said Kopp's voice would have been lost in a jury trial, where the prosecution intended to call about 60 witnesses.

now