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December 30, 1994, Abortion Foe John Salvi Attacks Clinics in Brookline, MA, Killing Two - Today In Crime History
On this day, December 30, in the year 1994, John Salvi, III, carried out fatal attacks at two Planned Parenthood reproductive health clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts. During the attacks he shot and killed two receptionists and wounded five other individuals.
John Salvi walked into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, and shot and killed a 25-year-old receptionist. He then shot and seriously wounded three other people at that clinic. Salvi then traveled to the Preterm Health Services clinic and opened fire again, killing a 38-year-old receptionist and wounding two other people, a security guard and a clinic employee. Witnesses said that Salvi shouted, "This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!" as he fired bullets into the receptionist at the second clinic.
In the second attack, a security guard was able to return fire, causing Salvi to drop a bag containing a second firearm and approximately 700 rounds of ammunition, as he fled the scene. Law enforcement investigators were able to quickly identify Salvi from a gun shop receipt located in the abandoned bag he had dropped at the scene. He was captured the next day in Norfolk, Virginia, after spraying the lobby of another women’s clinic with about 20 rounds of gunfire.
Salvi was charged by prosecutors with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of armed assault with intent to murder, all arising from his December 30, 1994, attacks on the two clinics in Massachusetts. Prior to his trial, Salvi’s criminal defense lawyers would contend that he was legally incompetent and unable to understand or assist in the legal proceedings. If a person is deemed incompetent, they are usually held in a secure mental facility while mental health professionals attempt treatment to enable the person to regain sufficient mental competence to proceed to a trial. The trial judge held a competency hearing where experts who had conducted psychiatric and psychological evaluations of Salvi testified. After four days of considering evidence presented by prosecutors and defense attorneys, the Judge concluded that Salvi was of sufficient mental competence to proceed to a jury trial.
During Salvi's jury trial, his criminal defense attorney argued that Salvi suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia. The criminal defense lawyer acknowledged in his opening statement that Salvi had fired the fatal shots, and claimed that Salvi was a "sick, sick young man" who used careful tactics in pursuit of a delusional plan. Expert psychiatric witnesses testified that Salvi suffered from mental illness and did not understand the nature and consequences of his actions. The defense attorney sought a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, which would have placed Salvi in a state mental hospital until a judge ruled that he was no longer a threat to himself or others.
The prosecution portrayed Salvi as a cunning anti-abortion zealot, who carefully plotted the murders and then evaded an elaborate manhunt. Experts testified on behalf of the prosecution that Salvi was not suffering from a mental illness and did, in fact, fully understand the wrongfulness of his actions.
Despite his criminal defense lawyers' attempts to prove him insane, the jury convicted Salvi of all criminal charges against him. The judge sentenced him to 2 consecutive life terms with no chance for parole, plus an additional 18-20 years after completing that sentence. In November of 1996, Salvi was found dead in his prison cell, an apparent suicide by asphyxiation.
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