Pensacola News Journal from Pensacola, Florida on March 5, 1994 · 6
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Pensacola News Journal from Pensacola, Florida · 6

Pensacola, Florida
Issue Date:
Saturday, March 5, 1994
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6A Pensacola News Journal Saturday, March 5, 1994 MICHAEL GRIFFIN TRIAL FRIDAY'S TEST! PJIOi JY: A summary of witnesses' testimony in Michael Griffin's first-degree murder trial. il i - . 7- : fa, ill- -' - ; I- - ...rtw. .i i S Bob Southern: The professional model builder took three months to construct a wooden scale replica of the Cordova Square complex where Pensacola Women's Medical Services is located. Bernd Jablonski: ' The Pensacola police officer said he did not handcuff Michael , Griffin after his arrest because his wrists were too thick. Other witnesses have said Griffin was handcuffed. Jablonski also disputed a witness' testimony that Griffin told Jablonski, "You need to arrest me.". k FROM 1A V "It's all for the cameras," Gunn, 23, said 4, outside the courtroom. "I wonder if they,. got a good close-up." J ' T A female juror began weeping just before Griffin teared up. Her sniffling began as Burt talked about a "Christian burial" that he staged for what he claimed were two ripped-apart fetuses. Pamham called a lunch recess when he noticed the crying. Both Griffin and the juror remained composed during the af- temoon as Burt and his top aide, Don Gratton, steadfastly denied any involve-5ment in Gunn's slaying. i DEFENSE ATTORNEYS Bob Kerrigan J and Bill Eddins have contended during jfive days of testimony that Burt was the mastermind of a murder conspiracy and Gratton may have shot the doctor. They suggested that Griffin accepted the blame because Burt and Gratton indoctrinated him with anti-abortion materials that made him willing "to do -anything" for their cause. But Burt and Gratton said they were picketing in front of Pensacola Women's Medical Services in Cordova Square on March 10 when Gunn was slain as he walked toward the rear door of the clinic. pl They repeatedly denied that they en- -vcouraged Griffin to kill Gunn or were .involved themselves. They said they didn't even know Griffin was at the clinic until he walked up to two Pensacola police officers and calmly confessed moments after the shooting. Earlier this week, Delia Lindsey, an employee of a clothing store near the clinic, said she saw Griffin shoot Gunn. Pamham said he will rule today on whether the anti-abortion videos and literature, which the jury has heard about but not seen, will go to the jury room. ASSISTANT STATE Attorney Jim Murray argued that the videos are irrelevant and prejudicial because Griffin's contention is he didn't commit the shooting. But Eddins argued that the jurors should be able to watch the films to understand Griffin's mindset and why he confessed to a crime he didn't commit. "He was in the ozone," Kerrigan said. "He was clearly not all together after this occurred." Parnham said he will not allow the jury to consider a second-line defense that Griffin may have committed the murder in a heat-of-passion because of his exposure to the anti-abortion material. The primary defense Griffin didn't kill the doctor automatically excludes the second one, he said. Griffin and his wife, Patricia, volunteered at Our Father's House, the Milton shelter that Burt runs, about five times during the two months before the slaying, Scene Before you read on, let me tell you, there's no serious point to this column. I'm not going to talk about the Michael Griffin trial and what we as a community can learn from it. I'm not going to tell you about how the fundamental beliefs in the Constitution are reflected in the process of his trial. I'm going to talk about how reporters act when nobody else is around. Sometimes reporters are so busy observing and writing about others we forget that what we do is of any interest. I was reminded of that Friday morning. I was watching the Michael Griffin trial in the media room at the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building when Brenda San-som, the chief circuit court reporter, stepped in to see how the trial was proceeding. TUESDAY AFTERNOON, I had been in her office, learning everything I could for an article about court reporters and how they do their work. I found the interview fascinating, as often is the case when I talk to people about their jobs. Friday, p Sansom was the one asking the questions. The media room usually is .Courtroom 502, but during the Griffin trial, it was the home base for reporters who didn't have shows rtVi Joel Nobles: Griffin's co-worker at Monsanto said Griffin agreed on March 9, the day ' before the shooting, to work for him on March 13. He noticed nothing unusual about Griffin on March 9. Jay Coley: The former investigator for defense attorney Bill Eddins said he used a metal detector to search for the missing fatal bullet Aug. 17 and 18 but didn't find it. A member of a metal detector club with more experience than Coley found the bullet Nov. 21. mm. J ' Scott FisherNews Journal With prosecutor Jim Murray looking on, abortion opponent John Burt points out the location of a protest he organized outside the abortion clinic the day Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed. , ' .,.;..-..,,.. P f - Burt testified. y The Griffins watched two anti-abortion videos, "Hard Truth" and "A Song for David," on Jan. 9, he said. "They show the truth," he said. "The abortionists say it's just blob of tissue. But they lie. ... When you see these videos, you can see they're babies." Burt testified he showed the Griffins a jar with aborted fetuses after they watched the videos. "They were heads and torsos and arms and feet," Burt said. . The couple later attended "a Christian burial for the children" on property Burt owns next to the The Ladies Center, another Pensacola abortion clinic. GRIFFIN DIDN'T show any emotion when he saw the films or fetuses or at any other time, Burt said. 1 "Patricia cried, and Michael was just very quiet," Burt said. 4- The 5-foot effigy of Gunn had a noose around its neck, red paint spattered on its gloved hands and a Bible verse on its chest, Burt said. He said he didn't recall showing the effigy to Griffin. But he said he could have seen it in his open garage. Burt said he never wanted Gunn killed. reporters march to the heat of a different drummer Lesley Tritschler illJiilii Metro reporter courtroom passes. As she looked around the room, Sansom was interested in the people hunched over television monitors and notebooks, by the stacks of electronic equipment and by the wires that snaked along the floor and over tables. She couldn't believe that in one corner, two technicians were engrossed in a game of checkers. SO OFTEN, the public sees only the end product of our work they read the paper, they watch the news, they listen to the radio. What they get are serious, vital issues discussed in somber tones. The same people who have been bringing the world the Griffin trial were behaving in a manner that would have guaranteed their banishment from the courtroom. '""Most were in comfortable clothes like jeans and sneakers. Some had dress shirts that had long ago been untucked and rumpled. A few had their feet propped up on the table, and almost everyone had broken The media the rule that no food or drinks were allowed in the courtroom. Escambia Circuit Judge John , Parnham didn't allow spectators to laugh in his courtroom, but there was plenty to be heard in the Steve Ordonia: The Pensacola police investigator, who was in charge of the Griffin investigation, interviewed witnesses the morning of the shooting. He said there was no indication John Burt or Don Gratton were involved in the shooting. Demetrius Cain; The Pensacola police officer, who worked part-time security at a second abortion clinic where Gunn worked, said he didn't notice escalating tension between Gunn and Burt before the shooting. "Dr. Gunn never changed," he said. "He always came in smiling." : He called the doctor "David" and agreed with Murray's characterization that he was "a friendly adversary." But he said, "If this was a Christian country, David Gunn would be guilty of murder, and he would stand trial before a jury of his peers and be executed for killing children." Griffin had said he might come to the planned protest at the abortion clinic on March 10, Burt said. But the slaying came as a shock, he said. "If I am a general with troops under me and give them a game plan and send them out, I can't be responsible for every soldier in that army," he acknowledged saying on a talk show days after the shooting. - THE VIDEOS have been shown numerous times, he said. "There's a man in Milwaukee who released 100,000 of these videos there and didn't anyone go out and shoot anyone there," he said. Burt, who collected money for Griffin's family after the slaying, said Griffin wrote several letters to Our Father's House residents after he was jailed. He said he turned the letters over to the State Attorney's Office after a prosecutor told him Griffin might implicate him. room, formerly Courtroom 502, is home base media room. Friday, it came when one reporter walked in with a huge Thirst Buster cup like the one witnesses said Griffin had the day of the shooting. The reporter said Paula Leonard: Gunn's girlfriend for ,1Vi years before his death broke into tears on the witness stand as she accused Burt of harassing her, Gunn and her daughter. She said she held Burt partially to blame for the slaying. JURY'S DECISION Twelve jurors in Michael Griffin's murder trial must agree unanimously on his guilt or innocence. Although Griffin is charged with first-degree premeditated murder, the jury could return a verdict finding him guilty of a lesser charge - such as second-degree murder or not guilty of any crime at all. ' If jurors cannot agree unanimously, the case will result in a mistrial and Griffin could be retried. The judge would determine the length of deliberations before declaring a hung jury. Two alternate jurors who have heard all the testimony in the trial will not participate in deliberations unless one of the 12 is unable to complete his or her service. "Since John has been subpoenaed and they know he has nothing to do with this case, feel free to write," one sentence said. "I hope now that they know there is no connection . . . that y'all will be left alone and be allowed to do what you do do best, care for the little ones," another sentence said. ; ... Burt "denied that he shook Gratton's hand moments after the shooting, as a clinic worker testified Thursday. "That's a lie," he said. GRATTON, WHO has participated in abortion opposition activities with Burt for 10 years, gave almost identical testi- mony to Burt. He said he didn't recall shaking Burt's hand in the last decade. He said he didn't shoot Gunn, and he heard Griffin confess to police. "I've never had any concern about being implicated," he said. "I wasn't back there (behind the clinic). If I were on trial, there would be 30 or 40 witnesses who could say where I was." Earlier in the day, Parnham called a recess when Gunn's girlfriend, Paula Leonard, broke into tears on the witness stand. She described Burt and Gratton harassing her, ' her daughter and Gunn and picketing outside her home. She also said they followed her in vehicles, an allegation they denied. ; "Why don't you find a real man and a real daddy for your kids instead of a butcher?" Leonard quoted Burt as saying. The defense was trying to use Leonard's testimony to show escalating animosity between Burt and Gunn. If Griffin is convicted of first-degree murder, he will receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The state dropped its request for the death penalty last week. ' it- , s ". If Scott FisherNews to reporters without passes to the trial. nothing, just raised an eyebrow and gave a little grin. And when Demetrious Cain, a Pensacola police officer, testified solemnly that John Burt was not a model protester, oh, how the room John Burt: Northwest Florida's most vocal abortion opponent said he showed Griffin anti-abortion videos and material. But he denied a defense . contention that he encouraged Griffin to kill Gunn or masterminded a murder conspiracy. Don Gratton: Burt's associate denied killing Gunn, as the defense has suggested. He said he was picketing in front of the clinic when Gunn was shot behind the clinic. He said he heard Griffin confess to two Pensacola police officers at the scene. Groups planning! 'Verdict Vigil' as jury decides By Lucy Quina and Brad Barnes News Journal ) Some of the most visible groups in the abortion rights movement are planning a "Verdict Vigil" in the trial of a man accused of killing a doctor who performed abortions. i Beginning at 1 p.m. today, groups plan to stand outside the M.C. Blan-chard Judicial Building while a jury decides the guilt or innocence of Michael Griffin in the shooting death of Dr. David Gunn. "We're hoping to get not just NOW and the Feminist Majority but the general public," said Chicky Desmar-ais, president of the Escambia County Chapter of the National Organization for Women. i The group, along with other chapters in Northwest Florida, Florida NOW and representatives from the Feminist Majority Foundation, is organizing the vigil. At times, she expects participants to march and rally. More important, though, is just the physical presence of the people, she said. ACTIVE ABORTION opponent John Burt of Milton is not planning an organized demonstration during jury deliberations, nor is Paul Hill of Dei fensive Action, a group that has defended Gunn's killing as justifiable homicide. Desmarais is not sure how big the turnout will be for the vigil, but work4 ers were calling people to drum up support Friday evening. If the jury deliberates past 7 p.m. today, the vigil will continue from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day until a decision is reached. ! The March 10 killing of Gunn be4 came a magnet for demonstrators oil both sides of the abortion issue. But Griffin's trial almost a year later has been quiet. Desmarais is surprised at the apathy in the community and the country. But her group has intentionally kept a low profile to ensure Griffin's right to a fair trail, she said. "UP UNTIL now we really haven't come forward and made a lot of noise," she said. But now "we're hoping tcj attract some attention." Escambia County NOW also is sponJ soring a candlelight remembrance for Gunn on Thursday March 10 the one-year anniversary of his death. The group is inviting the public to assemble at 6:30 p.m. at Pensacola Women's Medical Services where the shooting took place. howled. What an understatement Don't misunderstand. When the trial got serious, so did the reporters. But this trial, like most of the serious subjects we cover, is part of the job. And at any job, things get boring. And people get dis-tracted. And sometimes, they'd rather be at the beach. i WHEN I looked around the media room Friday, I saw people, S f people like me, who had been more i comfortable in study hall or deten- I a: 1 -i i i 'f iion man in cnemisiiy ciass or t physics. ! I It's not about intelligence, it's about having the opportunity to march to a different drummer i to not always have to be tucked in, laced in, zipped up and confined to one philosophy and one method of doing things. I It's about working long, grueling hours surviving on junk food or no food at all and keeping a sense of humor. j It's about considering caffeine, nicotine, sugar or fat the four major food groups. j It's about looking at life, questioning authority, learning from people and opening your mind. Sometimes, I love this job. j Lesley Tritschler covers criminal-Justice issues for the News Journal. She can be reached at 435-8684 or by writing P.O. Box 12710, Pensacola, Fla. 32574. Journal

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