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Anti-abortionists upset over defense tactic

Published Oct. 6, 2005

At the beginning of the murder trial against abortion foe Michael Griffin, fellow activists protested abortion. But by the fourth day, they protested Griffin himself.

Quoting the Bible, they carried signs that read, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

The protest was indicative of how the trial has turned. Griffin, who initially told authorities that his personal convictions led him to shoot the doctor who performed abortions, has turned against his friends in the movement, going as far as saying another activist pulled the trigger.

He also turned against John Burt, the regional director of Rescue America, who was conducting a demonstration at Pensacola Women's Medical Services the day Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed on his way to work.

"We're trying to get the message across to Michael and his lawyers to stop pointing fingers," said Joni Warrick, who works with Burt and lives at Burt's home for pregnant women. "We're trying to say, if you did it, admit it. This is really unfair."

Inside the courtroom on Thursday the state rested its case with a witness who overheard Griffin tell his wife he killed Gunn.

"He said that he didn't do it for any notoriety or any public recognition," testified jail guard Brenda Fuqua, who sat with the couple during a jailhouse conversation the day after the murder. "He said he killed him because of his beliefs and convictions and if he had to go to jail for the rest of his life to save a baby it would be worth it."

"He also told her that he loved her and he kept telling her not to cry and everything was going to be all right."

It was Fuqua's testimony that the defense agreed not to object to in exchange for the state not seeking the death penalty.

Despite testimony from Fuqua and two police officers who said that immediately after Gunn was shot three times in the back, Griffin approached them, confessed and turned himself in, Griffin's attorneys maintain that Griffin is not the killer.

Defense attorney Robert Kerrigan started putting on his case with evidence to try to establish a conspiracy between Burt and a couple of other anti-abortion activists who let Griffin take the fall.

He has suggested that Donnie Gratton, an associate of Burt's, pulled the trigger. Thursday, he questioned witnesses from the women's clinic who said that members of Burt's group had been watching the clinic and stalking Gunn for about five days.

On March 10, 1993, the day of the murder, one witness said, she heard the shots, looked out the window and saw John Burt and Donnie Gratton shaking hands.

Another witness saw Burt in his car at the clinic a few days earlier and the car had an "Execute Abortionists" bumper sticker.

During the state's case, Kerrigan tried to poke holes in expert testimony, pointing out that no fingerprints were found on the gun and there was not enough gun powder residue on Griffin's hands to conclude that he shot a firearm.

The defense also tried to stir doubt that Griffin was the shooter by saying there was no blood splatter on his clothes when there was blood on the gun.

But a blood splatter expert from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that blood doesn't splatter when the wound is covered by clothing and that the blood got on the gun while the gun was on the ground near the body.