Unrepentant to the end, Paul Hill, the former Presbyterian minister who murdered a doctor who carried out abortions and his volunteer driver, was executed last night in Florida by lethal injection. Amid warnings that his death could lead to further violence, the state governor Jeb Bush said he would not be "bullied" into halting the execution.
Hill said in a final statement, as he lay strapped to the gurney: "I want to thank my lord Jesus Christ for saving me from my sins and enabling me to persevere. If you think abortion is a lethal force you should oppose that force."
At 6.08pm eight minutes after a combination of three sedatives and lethal drugs were administered Hill, who was married with three children, was declared dead by two doctors. He was the first person in the US to be executed for an anti-abortion killing.
As Hill was executed at the Florida State Prison at Starke, abortion clinics stepped up security, fearing that his supporters might carry out further attacks. "Paul Hill is a dangerous psychopath," said Marti McKenzie, spokeswoman for Dr James Pendergraft, who runs clinics in Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. "The bottom line is when you work in the industry you're aware those people are out there every single day."
Hill was convicted of the 1994 murder of Dr John Bayard Britton and his 75-year-old driver, James Barrett, outside the Pensacola Ladies' Centre. Hill had waited for the doctor to arrive and then shot him and his driver in the head with a pump-action shotgun. Mr Barrett's wife was also injured.
When he was arrested several minutes after the shooting, Hill told police: "I know one thing, no innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today." Just a year before the attack, Hill had gone on national television to defend Michael Griffin who had been charged with murdering another doctor who provided abortions in Pensacola. When Hill was later convicted and sentenced to death he smiled to others in the courtroom.
Hill gave a press conference on Tuesday his right under Florida state law at which he said he had no regrets for what he had done and that others should follow his example. "I expect a great reward in heaven," he said. "I am looking forward to glory. I believe the state, by executing me, will be making me a martyr."
Death penalty opponents and others had urged Governor Bush to halt the execution, some of them echoing Hill's prediction that his death would make him a martyr and unleash more violence against abortion clinics. The governor said he would not be "bullied" into stopping the execution.
Outside the prison additional police, sniffer dogs and undercover officers were in place as several dozen protesters gathered. As it was, most demonstrators left quickly as rain fell and lightning struck.
A Hill supporter, the Rev Michael Bray, said: "There are several million people out there, maybe a hundred million, who believe abortion is murder. Any of those acting on that assumption could [kill doctors] unless they are absolute pacifists." Members of the mainstream anti-abortion movement have denounced Hill's calls for violence. "You do not take the law into your own hands and kill in the name of life, that is a contradiction in terms and is absurd," said Lynda Bell, a spokeswoman for Florida Right to Life.
Hill's final visitors were his wife and son, his mother and father and two sisters.Reuse content