Abortion clinic killer gets 2 life sentences Mass. jury rejects claim that Salvi was insane in killing 2, wounding 5

March 19, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

DEDHAM, Mass. - John C. Salvi III was convicted yesterday of murdering two receptionists at abortion clinics and sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole, as a jury rejected his lawyers' claim that Salvi had acted under delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia.

Judge Barbara Dortch- Okara ordered that Salvi serve the two life terms consecutively, and she also sentenced him to five additional terms that would mean 18 to 20 years in prison after the life terms for attempted murder in the wounding of five other people.

The shootings, the worst violence ever at abortion clinics in the nation, occurred in December 1994 at two clinics in Brookline, a Boston suburb.

Just before Salvi was sentenced, Ruth Ann Nichols, the mother of one of the women he killed, said to him from the witness stand, "Without hes- itation, I hope you have sheer misery the rest of your life."

Mrs. Nichols, looking at Salvi, said that the first words her daughter, Lee Ann, had spoken as a little girl had been "me chase the birdies" but that her last words, as Salvi shot her 10 times at point-blank range, had been "no, no, no."

"You shot her in the back," Mrs. Nichols said, making a victim's impact statement. "That is cowardly. You are a little man with a big gun."

Salvi, 24, sat with a blank expression on his face as the jury read out its verdict.

Then Mrs. Nichols and several other relatives of his victims spoke of the pain he had inflicted.

When Judge Dortch-Okara asked Salvi whether he had anything to say before being sentenced, he replied, "I am against abortion and pro-welfare state and pro-Catholic labor union."

Outside the Norfolk County Courthouse after sentencing, one of Salvi's lawyers, J. W. Carney Jr., said his client's statement was an indication of his mental illness.

"This trial had no meaning for him whatsoever," Mr. Carney said.

From his opening statement, Mr. Carney conceded that Salvi had committed the shootings at the two clinics, but he urged the jury to find Salvi not guilty by reason of insanity.

But after the verdict yesterday, Mr. Carney said it was difficult to argue for an insanity defense. Most jurors are not sympathetic, Mr. Carney said, because of "misunderstanding about mental illness."

Mr. Carney declined to say whether he would appeal. But Saturday, during deliberations, Mr. Carney said he might have good grounds for an appeal because the judge had turned down a last-minute request to allow Salvi to read a statement about his belief that the Roman Catholic Church is under assault by a conspiracy involving the Freemasons, Mafia and Ku Klux Klan.

When the defense rested its case earlier in the week, the judge had asked Salvi if he wished to testify. He said no.

Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, said he doubted that Mr. Carney would have grounds for an appeal because Mr. Carney had wanted to have Salvi discuss his beliefs and then refuse to be cross-examined by the prosecution.

A defendant cannot pick and choose what questions to answer if he wants to testify, Mr. Ogletree said, comparing the situation with an unsuccessful effort made by lawyers for O. J. Simpson to have him give a statement without being cross-examined.

Judge Dortch-Okara banned television cameras from the courtroom yesterday's verdict. Both the prosecution and the defense were cautious in talking to journalists.

Several members of the jury, which deliberated nine hours over two days, were in tears when they filed into the small courtroom yesterday afternoon. A bailiff put an arm around the forewoman, Patricia Shay, who appeared to have trouble reading the verdict forms.

Salvi's mother, Ann Marie Salvi, collapsed after the first of the seven convictions was read out. She had to be helped from the courtroom by one of her son's lawyers and a bailiff.

The prosecutor, John Kivlan, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. "We feel that the premeditation and cruelty in this case was extraordinary," he said.

Anjana Agrawal, a medical assistant in one of the clinics, told Salvi that she still carries a bullet between her heart and her spine and undergoes physical therapy every day. "That bullet I feel with every breath I take," Ms. Agrawal said.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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