Abortion Doc's Killer Waives Jury Trial

A man charged with murdering an abortion provider will stand trial in a single-day session heard by a judge, who accepted the defendant's decision to waive his right to have the evidence considered by a jury.

The much shorter session agreed to Tuesday could give James Kopp a better platform for his anti-abortion views.

Kopp admits killing Dr. Barnett Slepian in the doctor's Amherst home in 1998, but he has pleaded innocent to two counts of second-degree murder.

Lawyers had been scheduled to start questioning potential jurors Wednesday.

The waiver was the latest surprise in Kopp's untraditional defense. In November, he admitted shooting Slepian, 52, but said he only intended to wound him to stop him from performing abortions.

A jury trial "would have included 60-some witnesses from the prosecution and whatever Jim has to say about what took place would be lost in a chorus of other evidence, all of which we agree to," said Kopp's lead attorney, Bruce Barket.

Another defense attorney, John Elmore, strongly disagreed with the request. Barket said Kopp sought the change "because he thinks it's the right thing for him to do for himself and for a cause that has been very dear to him his entire life."

Judge Michael D'Amico will decide Kopp's fate based on a list of facts agreed to by the defense and prosecution. The session is scheduled Monday.

Prosecutors agreed on the condition the judge not consider finding Kopp guilty of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter.

"If I'm going by this I want it all or nothing," District Attorney Frank Clark said.

Kopp, who faces up to 25 years to life if convicted of either charge, is a suspect in the woundings of four other abortion providers in Canada and Rochester between 1994 and 1997, and has been charged in one of the three Canadian shootings.