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Attorneys Debate Intent in Abortion Shooting

September 11, 1995

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Rachelle ``Shelley″ Shannon shot at the abortion doctor five times and hit him twice, but she did not intend to kill him, her attorney told the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday.

Shannon, of Grants Pass, Ore., is seeking a new trial. She was convicted of attempted first-degree murder in the August 1993 wounding of George Tiller at his Wichita clinic.

Tiller had only minor wounds. Shannon, a mother of two who has admitted to waging a violent campaign against abortion, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison.

At Monday’s appeal hearing, her attorney, public defender Thomas Jacquinot, said her only intent in shooting Tiller was to stop abortions. A ruling in the appeal is expected Oct. 27.

Justice Donald Allegrucci appeared skeptical.

``If someone aims a gun and stands two or three feet away and shoots five times with it, and hits a person twice, what is the unintentional act?″ Allegrucci asked.

Jacquinot replied: ``She intended to shoot him and wound him and did not care whether he lived or died. No doubt, she had the intention to shoot him.″

Assistant Sedgwick County attorney Doyle Baker said the jury’s verdict should stand because the state proved that Shannon intended to kill Tiller.

He said she told Wichita police detectives after her arrest, ``If there’s ever justifiable homicide, this is it.″

A key issue is whether the trial judge should have told the jury that it could find Shannon guilty of attempted second-degree murder, which is acting with ``reckless disregard″ as to whether someone will be harmed. The judge did not, and the jury found her guilty of attempted first-degree murder.

Had she been found guilty of the lesser charge, her prison term would have been five years shorter.

Shannon, 39, did not attend Monday’s hearing.

On Friday, she was sentenced in Portland to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to firebombing six West Coast clinics in 1992. She will serve the federal sentence after her Kansas term winds up in about seven years.

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