- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

STARKE, Fla. (AP) — Paul Hill, a former minister who said he murdered an abortion doctor and his bodyguard to save the lives of unborn babies, was executed yesterday by lethal injection. He was the first person put to death in the United States for antiabortion violence.

Hill, 49, was condemned for the July 29, 1994, shooting deaths of Dr. John Bayard Britton and his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Herman Barrett, and wounding of Col. Barrett’s wife outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola.

As he has since the slaying, Hill showed no remorse and urged abortion foes to use whatever means to protect the unborn.

“If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it,” Hill said as he lie strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber. “May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected.”

Hill was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m., Gov. Jeb Bush’s office said.

Death-penalty opponents and others had urged Mr. Bush to halt the execution, some of them warning that Hill’s 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.

Florida abortion clinics and police were on heightened alert for reprisals. Several officials connected to the case received threatening letters last week, accompanied by rifle bullets.

“Paul Hill is a dangerous psychopath,” said Marti McKenzie, spokeswoman for Dr. James S. Pendergraft, who runs clinics in Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Outside Florida State Prison, extra law enforcement officers, explosives-sniffing dogs and undercover officers were in place to prevent protests from getting out of hand.

“We don’t want an incident of national proportion,” Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner said.

Hill’s religious adviser, Donald Spitz, stayed with him until just before his execution.

Since losing his automatic appeals, Hill has not fought his execution and insisted up to the day before his death that he would be forgiven by God for killing to save the unborn.

“I expect a great reward in heaven,” he said in an interview Tuesday, during which he was cheerful, often smiling. “I am looking forward to glory.”

Hill suggested others should take up his cause.

Fringe elements of the antiabortion movement that condone clinic violence have invited attacks on Web sites that proclaim Hill as a martyr. Members of the mainstream antiabortion movement have denounced the calls for violence.

Most abortion clinics in Florida reached by the Associated Press yesterday declined comment. Miss McKenzie said security is always high at their clinics, but they are particularly cautious now because of Hill’s call for people to follow his actions.

“The bottom line is when you work in the industry, you’re aware those people are out there every single day,” she said.

Inspired by the 1993 shooting death of another abortion doctor in Pensacola, Hill purchased a new shotgun and went to a shooting range to practice. The morning of the murder, as Dr. Britton and the Barretts entered the clinic parking lot, Hill shot Col. Barrett in the head and upper body. He then reloaded and fired again, hitting Dr. Britton in the head and arm. Mrs. Barrett was wounded in the arm.

Hill put down the shotgun because he did not want to get shot by police and walked away. When officers arrested him within minutes without incident, he said, “I know one thing: No innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today.”

Hill was the 57th inmate executed since Florida resumed executions in 1979 and the third in Florida this year.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide