Paul Hill, the first man in America to receive the death penalty for murdering an abortion doctor, told reporters during a final interview from death row that he has no regrets and that he expects a "great reward" in heaven.
Hill in 1994 fired a 12-gauge shotgun into a pickup truck occupied by Dr. John B. Britton and his bodyguard James H. Barrett outside the Ladies Clinic in Pensacola, Fla., killing both. Hill never tried to deny what he had done. He represented himself during his trial and refused to make an opening statement. Later, he tried to block attorneys who sought to delay his execution.
On the eve of his execution by lethal injection, Hill spoke matter-of-factly about the killings and expressed no remorse.
"I expect a great reward in heaven," Hill said. "I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse.... People have asked me if I would do it again. If I was put in a similar circumstance, I believe I would act similarly."
Smiling throughout the interview, Hill, a 49-year-old former minister, told reporters he felt honored to receive the death penalty. After meeting with his wife and three children for the last time, Hill said he feels confident that God will provide for them.
Hill told reporters about his early life and his conversion to fundamentalist Christianity at age 17. While pastoring a Pensacola church, he became more deeply involved in the anti-abortion movement. In 1993, when an anti-abortion activist shot Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Hill began arguing that murdering abortion providers is a form of justifiable homicide.
Hill told reporters he practiced with the shotgun at a local shooting range before going to the clinic the morning of July 29, 1994. He arrived early and waited for Britton. Hill told reporters that he would have killed anyone who tried to stop him from shooting Britton, including police officers.
After the shooting, Hill said, he noticed that Britton was still alive.
"I fired five more rounds until all movement stopped, laid the shotgun down and walked out toward the street with my hands by my side, awaiting arrest," he said.
Hill admitted to being somewhat uneasy about the thought of his own death, but added, "If I had not acted when I did, and in the way I did, I could not look myself in the mirror."
Hill's attorney, Michael Hirsch, filed a motion before the Florida Supreme Court in an attempt to delay the execution but was turned down. Hirsch, who once worked for TV preacher Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, lost that position for defending Hill. He also authored an article for the law review at Robertson's Regent University arguing that killing abortion doctors is justifiable homicide. (The school later pulled all copies of the journal.)
Hill is a hero to several extreme anti-abortion groups. One website, www.spiritfx.com, which describes itself as "a web-portal for the Bible believing, anti-abortion, constitution defending, freedom loving, red blooded, patriot," contained an account of Hill's execution that portrayed him as a martyr.
The site also contains a section called "The Devil's Minions" that includes photos of workers at an abortion clinic in Knoxville, Tenn., and their cars.
Days before the execution Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other state officials received threatening letters containing bullets. Bush, who favors the death penalty, told reporters he would not be intimidated.
Hill was executed Sept. 4 and pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m.