1 minute read

Florida v. Hill: 1994

Killing At The Clinic, Two Fast Trials, Appeals For A "martyr", Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendant: Paul J. Hill
Crimes Charged: Murder, attempted murder, and shooting at an occupied vehicle
Chief Defense Lawyer: Paul Hill
Chief Prosecutor: James R. Murray
Judge: Frank
L. Bell
Place: Pensacola, Florida
Dates of Trial: October 31-November 3, 1994
Verdict: Guilty of all charges
Sentence: Death by electrocution

SIGNIFICANCE: Paul Hill was the first anti-abortion activist sentenced to die for murdering a doctor who performed abortions. His case also highlighted the growing willingness of some pro-life advocates to use violence to achieve their goal of outlawing abortion.

Protests outside abortion clinics became a common sight during the 1980s and 1990s. Pro-life activists took their message to the streets, trying to dissuade young mothers from having abortions and challenging the morality of the procedure. Some activists also began to target doctors who performed abortions, harassing them or threatening their safety. This new tactic in the anti-abortion movement became extreme in 1993, when 32-year-old Michael Griffin murdered Doctor David Gunn outside a Pensacola, Florida, abortion clinic. When Griffin's trial began in February 1994, one of his most ardent supporters was Paul Hill.

A former Presbyterian minister, Hill had recently joined a radical faction of the pro-life forces that believed that killing doctors who performed abortions was justified in God's eyes. After an appearance on the Donahue television show, Hill became the most visible disciple of this faith-based defense of murder. Hill wrote extensively on the issue and called extreme anti-abortion violence "defensive action" to save the unborn. At Griffin's murder trial, Hill carried a sign that summed up his philosophy: "Execute murderers, abortionists, accessories."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994