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Jury picked in abortion doctor killing

Published Oct. 6, 2005

A dozen jurors and two alternates were seated and immediately sequestered Sunday in the trial of an activist accused of murdering a doctor who performed abortions.

The trial of Michael F. Griffin is set to resume today and last a week.

Circuit Judge John Parnham wants to keep the jury sequestered for the duration to shelter it from publicity about the case.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors tentatively agreed Saturday on the jury of seven women and five men and the two alternates, both women. They were selected following four days of individual interviews.

Griffin, 32, an anti-abortion activist and former Pensacola chemical plant worker, is accused of shooting Dr. David Gunn, 47, of Eufaula, Ala., three times in the back March 10. The physician was shot as he arrived for work at Pensacola Women's Medical Services while a demonstration was being held on the opposite side of the clinic.

Security around the courthouse has been tight since jury selection began Feb. 21. Crowd-control barricades ring the building, and police sharpshooters have been stationed on its roof and atop a nearby office building.

Jurors are being identified only by number to protect their privacy and safety against possible retribution by zealots on either side of the abortion debate.

Parnham planned a hearing today on whether transcripts of private questioning about abortion should include jurors' identity numbers. Defense lawyer Robert Kerrigan said Saturday that he will oppose disclosing the numbers. News media lawyers are expected to argue for listing the numbers.

The judge also is to hear a prosecution motion to bar the introduction of videos and other abortion-related evidence.

The defense, although it claims Griffin didn't shoot the doctor, wants to introduce a Bible, graphic videos, a "wanted" poster on Gunn and other anti-abortion materials to show they could have driven the defendant to kill in the heat of passion.

That would support an argument that the killing was not premeditated and thus not first-degree murder.

The only penalty available for first-degree murder is life in prison without parole for at least 25 years.

The prosecution agreed not seek the death penalty.

Although the maximum punishment for second-degree murder is life in prison, state sentencing guidelines usually allow terms of 22 years or less.