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Abortion foe's defense sows doubt

Denied use of an insanity defense, attorneys for abortion foe Michael Griffin made a surprising move Monday, claiming Griffin was not the man who murdered an abortion doctor last year.

The defense maintained that it likely was another person who pulled the trigger, despite evidence that the gun used in the slaying of Dr. David Gunn was the same one Griffin had borrowed from his father and despite testimony of witnesses who saw Griffin standing over Gunn's body.

Defense attorney Robert Kerrigan said there is "plenty of doubt" that Griffin is guilty. He said he will present testimony from a woman inside Gunn's clinic who thinks it was activist Donnie Gratton who was the killer.

"Inside the clinic, there is a woman who says she saw a man with gray-streaked hair walking back and forth," he said. "That man is Donnie Gratton, and she thinks Donnie Gratton shot Dr. Gunn."

Later, Gratton's wife, Mary, said in an interview that she and her husband think Griffin's defense is ludicrous and they are angry about it.

"Eight witnesses can say where Donnie was," she said. "Donnie doesn't think it's right to kill someone. If you're pro-life, you're pro-life. You're not suppose to kill anyone."

Meanwhile, in the courtroom, Gunn's daughter, Wendy, and his ex-wife, Reta, sat arm-in-arm, watching with interest as Griffin's wife and father testified for the state.

Griffin, 32, and wearing a charcoal-gray jacket and paisley tie, was hardly distinguishable from his lawyers. He showed no emotion while Patricia Griffin told jurors that the .38 Smith & Wesson revolver _ the murder weapon _ was the gun they had borrowed for security reasons.

She answered questions quietly and told jurors her husband was a very religious man.

Assistant State Attorney Jim Murray told jurors the case is a simple one of premeditated murder _ that Griffin, who worked the graveyard shift at a chemical plant, left for work March 9 with his gun and shot Gunn three times in the back about 9:35 a.m. March 10.

Several witnesses saw Griffin lurking in the parking lot, and others saw him standing over Gunn's body. Some saw him drop the gun and walk calmly to the front of the building, where he turned himself in.

Murray promised jurors they would hear from the police officer Griffin approached and told, "I just shot somebody and he's behind the building," and "I shot Dr. Gunn."

Murray also promised testimony from a jail guard who overheard Griffin tell his wife he "did not kill Dr. Gunn for the notoriety, he killed him for his personal convictions and if he had to spend the rest of his life in jail, it would be worth it."

Defense attorney Kerrigan listed the following as problems with the state's case: no fingerprints linking Griffin to the gun; no gunpowder residue on his hands or clothing; and no blood on Griffin's clothes even though there was blood on the gun.

Kerrigan tried to create the image of a conspiracy between Gratton and Rescue America regional director John Burt to use Griffin as a martyr for the cause.

Gratton is awaiting a verdict on whether he is guilty of disturbing the peace and trying to incite a riot by preaching in front of a clinic. Gratton and Burt are expected to testify.

One of those who saw Griffin that day _ Christina Holland _ said she thought Griffin looked suspicious as he stood between a car and a truck, as if hiding.

"I thought it was suspicious that he had his right hand in his pocket and the other holding a (large drink)," she said. "I thought he was up to something. We were making comments like he may have a gun."

Last week, prosecutors announced they would not seek the death penalty for Griffin. But in exchange, defense attorneys could not object to evidence of the confession Griffin made to his wife.

Griffin may face a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years behind bars.

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