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Jury is tentatively set for abortion foe's trial

Lawyers tentatively agreed upon a jury Saturday for the trial of an anti-abortion activist accused of murdering a doctor who performed abortions.

Circuit Judge John Parnham ordered the 12 prospective jurors and two alternates to appear today for a final review. If none is challenged or removed for other reasons, he said he planned to impanel them.

They then would be sequestered for the duration of the trial of Michael F. Griffin and opening statements set for Monday. The trial is expected to last at least seven days.

The defense and prosecution each struck nine prospective jurors without cause from a pool of 32 that remained after Parnham excused eight of 13 panelists questioned individually Saturday. Each side is allowed up to 13 strikes.

Prospective jurors were identified only by numbers to protect their privacy and safety. But Parnham switched to a different numbering system during the striking process, making it impossible to determine which of the 32 were selected.

Griffin, 32, is charged with shooting Dr. David Gunn, 47, of Eufaula, Ala., three times in the back when he arrived for work at Pensacola Women's Medical Services during an anti-abortion demonstration last March 10.

In four days of questioning, 37 of 69 people were dismissed for cause or personal reasons to reach the final panel of 32.

A man who angrily accused a defense lawyer of challenging his honor and integrity was among prospective jurors excused for cause Saturday.

In response to defense questioning, the retired Navy officer said he believed Griffin probably was guilty of shooting Gunn, but he insisted he could put that opinion aside and make an objective decision.

When he said he believed a person was innocent until proven guilty, defense attorney William Eddins responded, "Oh, you do?" He also repeatedly told the man to "be honest."

Eddins then read back the man's response on a jury questionnaire on what first came to mind when he thought of defense lawyers.

"Sleaze, but I hope if I ever need one I get the best," the man wrote.

The prospective juror said he would have answered differently if he had more time to reflect on it.

"Oh, really?" Eddins responded.

The man then angrily accused Eddins of trying to make him look bad, using an expletive to make his point, and said he didn't want to serve on the jury.

"I'm so furious now, mad at the way I've been treated . . . it's all I can to contain myself," the man said.

Another man was excluded Saturday because lawyers on both sides were afraid he would be distracted and resentful after already serving on five juries.

"I feel like I've paid my responsibility or my duty," the man said, but he insisted he would not feel resentful if selected.

"The reality of the matter is he is not going to be a happy camper," Eddins said.

One woman was excused because she had already made up her mind that the shooting was not premeditated and another because she had a hard time remembering things. A man was excused after he said he believed Griffin probably pulled the trigger.