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Hill Is Given Death Sentence for Slayings at Abortion Clinic

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THE WASHINGTON POST

Paul Hill, the former preacher who killed a doctor and his unarmed escort with a shotgun at an abortion clinic here, was sentenced Tuesday to die in Florida’s electric chair.

Standing lanky and tall in a green jail jumpsuit, the married father of three did not ask the court for mercy.

“I know for a fact that I’m going to go to heaven when I die,” Hill, 40, had said last week. “I am certainly guilty of no crimes . . . . My actions are honorable.”

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In court Tuesday, Hill said little before he was given the ultimate penalty by Circuit Judge Frank Bell, who sternly concluded: “May God have mercy on your soul.”

Moments later, the son of the retired Air Force officer who was slain alongside the doctor dismissed Hill as “a nut.”

“He shot my father in the head with a shotgun,” said James Barrett quietly, his eyes red, his lips tight and trembling. “My father was a good man. A good, decent, kind man.”

Pending appeals, Hill’s execution would complete a circle drawn in blood in Pensacola. The city has been the scene of pitched anti-abortion protests, including the bombing of clinics and the murder last year of another abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn, whose killer was sentenced to life in prison.

Hill, who defended himself in court but never put on any witnesses and asked few questions, contends that he murdered Dr. John Britton, 69, to protect the lives of “the unborn.” He earlier told the court that his July 29 killing was “justifiable homicide,” but Judge Bell refused to allow Hill to present such a defense.

Also slain in the attack at the Ladies Center abortion clinic here was retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Barrett, 74. Barrett’s wife June was wounded in the assault.

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As Hill’s death sentence was pronounced, his wife, Karen, sat almost frozen, lips pursed, her head trembling slightly. Karen Hill reportedly left Pensacola four days before the shooting, taking her children and $10,000 in cash. Paul Hill has said no one knew of his plan to kill the doctor.

Hill has said he feels no remorse. Although he may choose not to appeal the sentence himself, he is granted an automatic appeal under Florida law, and it could be years, if ever, before he is electrocuted.

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