A lawyer for John C. Salvi III acknowledged Wednesday that Salvi killed two women and wounded five other people in attacks on two Brookline abortion clinics in 1994.
But the lawyer, in his opening statement at Salvi’s trial, said Salvi acted because he was driven by schizophrenic delusions and urged the jury to find him “not guilty by reason of mental illness.”
“Let me make no mistake and leave no misunderstanding,” said the lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., in an attempt to get his client a lighter sentence. “We represent the man who shot and killed” the two women, both receptionists.
The case is “not what happened, or by whom it happened, but why it happened,” Carney said. He maintained that his client was a “sick, sick young man” who believed that the Roman Catholic Church was being destroyed by a conspiracy involving the Ku Klux Klan, the Mafia and the Freemasons, leading him to kill to “save the Catholic people.”
What precipitated the shootings at the clinics on Dec. 30, 1994, Carney said, was a television newscast two days before that Salvi saw with his parents, reporting that four French priests had been killed by a Muslim fundamentalist group in Algeria.
But John Kivlan, an assistant district attorney, said Salvi “is legally sane” and carried out the shootings “with premeditation and with extreme ferocity and cruelty.”
Kivlan said that when Salvi, a 23-year-old apprentice hairdresser, was arrested, maps were found in his pickup truck detailing routes to the two clinics in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. He had recently bought a .22-caliber assault rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition “used primarily for killing,” the prosecutor said.
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