Anti-abortion extremist slated for execution

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

STARKE, Fla. -- An unrepentant Paul Hill boasted Tuesday on the eve of his execution for the shotgun slaying of an abortion doctor: "I expect a great reward in heaven."

Barring an unlikely last-minute stay, the 49-year-old former minister will be put to death by lethal injection tonight for the 1994 murders in Pensacola of Dr. John Britton and his escort. Hill has not appealed.

He will be the first person executed in the United States for anti-abortion violence.

In a jailhouse interview, Hill suggested the state will be making a martyr out of him.

"The sooner I am executed ... the sooner I am going to heaven," he said. "I expect a great reward in heaven. I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse."

"More people should act as I have acted," Hill added.

Abortion-rights groups worry that Hill's execution will trigger reprisals by those who share his steadfast belief that violence to stop abortion is justified. Several Florida officials connected to the case received threatening letters last week, accompanied by rifle bullets.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who was named in one of those threatening letters, said Tuesday the threats would not keep him from carrying out the law.

"I'm not going to be bullied," Bush said.

Bush also said: "I'm not going to change the deeply held views that I have on (the death penalty) because others have deeply held views that disagree.

"I totally respect them. And they should respect what the rule of law is here in our state."

Death penalty opponents have also pointed to the prospect of violence as a reason to stop this execution in particular.

"We're very concerned that Paul Hill's call for violence may be picked up by any person to whom God speaks," said Abe Bonowitz, the head of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "That could be prevented. It should be."

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