The parents of a man accused of killing two abortion clinic workers appeared before a grand jury Wednesday to answer questions about their son’s mental state in the days before the crime, a source told The Associated Press.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said John C. Salvi III’s lawyer is considering using an insanity defense at trial.
J.W. Carney Jr., a court-appointed lawyer known for his skill in using the insanity defense, wouldn’t comment on whether he plans such a strategy.
But the source said Carney may argue that while Salvi’s actions were driven by a deeply held Catholic anti-abortion belief, mental problems prevented him from realizing that murder was the wrong way to achieve his goals.
Salvi, a 22-year-old hairdresser from Hampton, N.H., is being held without bail on charges of killing two receptionists in Dec. 30 attacks on two suburban Boston abortion clinics. Five other people were wounded.
Salvi was arrested the following day in Norfolk, Va., and charged in an attack on an abortion clinic there. No one was hurt in that shooting.
A county grand jury is considering whether to indict Salvi on state murder charges.
Massachusetts does not have a death penalty, but federal authorities have said they are considering prosecuting Salvi under a combination of federal statutes that would allow for a death sentence.The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed by Congress in May, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison but the death penalty could result if Salvi is prosecuted under other laws, too.Salvi has pleaded innocent to federal firearms charges in Boston.
Carney said he plans to meet with U.S. Attorney Donald Stern on Monday to make his argument against using other laws that would provide for a federal death penalty.
Stern is expected to make a recommendation to Attorney General Janet Reno within the next two weeks. Kathleen Griffin, Stern’s spokeswoman, refused to comment on his plans.
Salvi’s parents, who live in Naples, Fla., testified before the grand jury Wednesday. Their attorney, William D. Crowe, refused to let the couple be interviewed when they were approached at Crowe’s office.
The source said Salvi’s uncle, Dennis Trudel of Ipswich, already has appeared before the grand jury. The source said all were being asked about Salvi’s mental state just before the attacks.
Salvi’s parents traveled from Florida to spend the Christmas holiday with him and were driving home when they were notified that Salvi was a suspect in the attacks.