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Judge rules out defense of justifiable homicide

A former minister cannot claim justifiable homicide in the fatal shootings of an abortion doctor and an unarmed women's clinic escort, a judge ruled Monday.

Circuit Judge Frank Bell granted a prosecution motion to prohibit Paul Hill from using what also is known as a necessity defense at his murder trial, scheduled to begin next Monday.

"What he is inviting the court to do is make a ruling that's going to invite anarchy," Assistant State Attorney James Murray argued. "He is asking to be able to introduce evidence that would essentially place him above the law."

Earlier this month, at Hill's trial on charges of breaking clinic protection and firearms laws, a federal judge similarly barred the former minister from arguing that it was necessary to kill to stop a greater evil.

That earlier trial resulted in the first conviction in the nation for violating the new federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law.

The former pastor of the Presbyterian Church in America and The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is to be sentenced Dec. 9 in that federal case. He faces a maximum of life in prison.

In the state murder case, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the July 29 shootings of Dr. John Bayard Britton, 69, of Fernandina Beach and retired Air Force Lt. Col. James H. Barrett, 74, of Pensacola.

Hill, 40, of Pensacola, also is accused of attempting to murder Barrett's wife, June, 68, and shooting into an occupied vehicle. All three victims were hit by shotgun blasts as they arrived at the Ladies Center, a Pensacola abortion clinic, in the Barretts' pickup truck.

Hill, wearing a jail-issue green jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg irons, then declined to make an oral argument.

"I'll just let my brief speak for itself," he told Bell at Monday's pretrial hearing.

Hill' 70-page brief compares abortion to Nazi efforts to exterminate Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others during World War II.

It also contends the shootings of the abortion doctor and his escort were justified under a Florida law that permits a person to use deadly force to protect himself or "another."

Murray argued that killing abortion providers cannot be considered a lesser evil than abortion because abortion is legal.