Prosecution wins motions in Kopp hearing

By SYLVIA CUKAN, United Press International  |  July 19, 2002 at 3:42 PM
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BUFFALO, N.Y., July 19 (UPI) -- In a pre-trial hearing in Buffalo, N.Y., James Kopp, accused of killing a doctor who provided abortions, was ordered Friday to supply samples of blood, hair, saliva and handwriting.

Erie County Court Judge Michael L. D'Amico also granted the prosecution's request to have Kopp appear in a police lineup and to not disclose the names and addresses of some prosecution witnesses.

Kopp's attorney, Paul Cambria Jr. objected strenuously to the motions brought by Erie County prosecutors because he has not been allowed to view the documents, such as witness statements, on which the motions were based.

"We weren't given a chance to review any of the documents the prosecution relied on and of course we can't adequately represent Mr. Kopp unless we are on an equal footing with the prosecution," Cambria said.

"The court has decided not to let us be on an equal footing with the prosecution so we'll just deal with it. I call it gamesmanship, because down the road we will get the documents."

Prosecutor Joseph Marusak said, "It's not about gamesmanship, it's about criminal procedure law in New York as the courts have set forth."

Cambria objected to the police lineup because of Kopp's notoriety from an international manhunt and being placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

"It's silly. Who wouldn't recognize him and pick him out of lineup after all the bombardment from the media?" Cambria said.

"The judge obviously did not consider the motion silly because he granted it, and I think it is an unfair characterization to describe such a motion as silly in such a serious case as this," Marusak countered.

Kopp, 47, has pleaded innocent to both the state charge of second-degree murder and the federal charge of interfering with the right to an abortion. If convicted of either charge, he faces life in prison. Kopp was arrested in Dinan, France, on March 29, 2001, following an extensive manhunt.

His extradition was requested by the United States federal government and included assurances to France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981, that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

According to the FBI, there are witnesses who claim they saw a man they believe to be Kopp jogging in the Slepian neighborhood before the shooting, and prosecutors won the ruling to have Kopp appear in a police lineup with his hair dyed wearing a fake mustache and beard to look as he appeared in 1998.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said of the witnesses, "I think the media scrutiny that this case has gotten frightens them to some extent, and I don't mean necessarily for their physical safety but the very fact that they have become to some extent public figures is a thought that scares a number of them."

Cambria said he had no problem with the court holding back the names, but that it should be an open and public proceeding.

The prosecution needs Kopp's samples for DNA analysis to place the anti-abortion activist at the scene. According to the FBI, a sniper stood about 100 feet in a wooded area behind the Slepian's Amherst, N.Y., house and killed the 52-year-old doctor with a single shot through a kitchen window at around 10 p.m. in October 1998.

The FBI said it got a strand of hair from a tree on which the shooter must have leaned against when the shot was fired.

Thirteen days after the shooting and after a shoulder-to-shoulder police search of the wooded area behind the suburban Amherst home, the FBI returned and found a plastic bag that contained an empty Remmington cartridge box for 7.62 cartridges, a pair of Tasco binoculars, a pair of ear muffs, a flashlight, a green baseball cap, a wrist watch and a black belted storage bag or a fanny pack, buried in the wooded area.

Five months after the hole with the personal items was discovered, the FBI returned to the wooded area on April 8, 1999, and found in another hole a semi-automatic rifle (Russian-built SKS carbine) with telescopic site and a cartridge catcher along with two pairs of gloves.

According to extradition documents, the gun was buried approximately 162 feet from the shooting site, wrapped in a rubber material and inserted in a cardboard tube.

The Amherst police arrived at the Slepian home two minutes after Mrs. Slepian called the police after the sniper shot.

The handwriting analysis will be used to match writing found by the FBI of a hand-drawn map to the A to Z Pawn Shop in Tennessee, as well as several telephone numbers of pawn shops in Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee. Investigators believe the weapon found buried behind Slepian's house, was purchased at the A to Z Pawn Shop.

The day after the Slepian shooting, the FBI took a SWAT team to the home of

80-year-old E. James Gannon, a resident of Whiting, N.J., who said he had known Kopp since 1989, but had not seen him since June or July of 1998.

Gannon allowed Kopp to store some personal items in his attic and the FBI took several boxes believed to be Kopp's from Gannon's home. The FBI said the map and pawnshop information was in one of the boxes.

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