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Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Anti-abortion activist waives jury trial

March 12, 2003

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— A man charged with killing an abortion provider waived his right to a jury trial Tuesday in favor of a much shorter proceeding that he believes will be a better platform for his anti-abortion views.

James Kopp, who admits shooting Dr. Barnett Slepian, wants a judge to decide his fate based on a list of facts agreed to by the defense and prosecution, a process that could take as little as a day.

A jury trial "would have included 60-some witnesses from the prosecution and whatever Jim has to say about what took place would be lost in a chorus of other evidence, all of which we agree to," said Kopp's lead attorney, Bruce Barket.

A stipulated-facts trial will allow defense and prosecuting attorneys to argue the case in a single session Monday.

The waiver was the latest surprise in Kopp's untraditional defense. Kopp in November admitted shooting Slepian, 52, in the doctor's Amherst home in 1998 but said he had intended only to wound him to stop him from performing abortions. He has pleaded innocent to two counts of second-degree murder.

The trial waiver came a day before lawyers were to start questioning potential jurors.

Prosecutors agreed on the condition the judge not consider finding Kopp guilty of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter.

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