March 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Salvi Guilty Of Murder In Abortion Clinic Killings


Jurors on Monday found John C. Salvi III guilty of murdering two women and wounding five others in a rampage at two abortion clinics.

Salvi was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison with no possibility of parole for the 1994 shootings in the Boston suburb of Brookline. In Massachussetts, which has no death penalty, the sentence is mandatory.

As the verdicts were read inside a courtroom flaring with emotion, victims’ families sobbed softly and held one another. Salvi’s mother, supported by her husband, gasped and swooned.

Flanked by his lawyers and by five bailiffs ready to react, Salvi himself showed no visible emotion.

The jury of six men and six women took nine hours during two days to weigh the charges of murder and armed assault, stemming from the worst single act of violence by an anti-abortion activist at U.S. abortion clinics.

The six-week case brought a horde of media to the century-old stone courthouse in this Boston suburb. It produced a mountain of evidence and testimony from 111 witnesses, including defense psychiatrists who said Salvi was a delusional schizophrenic, and a state hospital doctor who interviewed Salvi and said he believed the admitted gunman was capable of faking mental illness.

The verdict hinged on whether jurors would accept the defense contention that Salvi, now 24, was mentally ill and unable to distinguish right from wrong on Dec. 30, 1994, when the shootings occurred.

After killing Shannon Lowney, 25, at Planned Parenthood, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, at Preterm Health Services, Salvi fled south to Norfolk, Va. He was arrested after shooting out the windows of an abortion clinic there.

Throughout the reading on Monday of dramatic victim-impact statements, Salvi fidgeted in handcuffs but was mute.

Only gray-haired Ruth Ann Nichols, Lee Ann’s mother, brought a reaction when she called Salvi “a little man with a big gun,” who “cowardly” shot her daughter 10 times in the back. “I hope you have sheer misery every day of your life,” she said.

Salvi lowered his head and averted his eyes.

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