Florida Foundation member Julius Wernicke, a firm advocate of women's rights, attended much of the recent trial in Pensacola of Michael Griffin, the confessed and duly convicted murderer of Dr. David Gunn. Gunn was shot in the back by Griffin at a Pensacola abortion clinic on March 10, 1993. Mr. Wernicke kept us supplied with clippings and reports of the trial which attracted international attention.
Murderer Griffin's background is filled with religion.
Griffin's father described his son as "a religious person all his life," attending a Methodist church as a child and teenager. Reportedly, he was molested by a youth minister. Griffin joined a fundamentalist Assembly of God church seven years ago. That church's pastor told reporters Griffin was abusive to his family, "slapping around" his wife and two daughters, and was finally asked to leave the congregation because he was "incorrigible." (If they kick you out of an Assembly of God church, you're pretty bad!)
At the time of his arrest Griffin had been attending another fundamentalist church called Charity Chapel. There the congregation was asked to pray for his troubled marriage. Griffin also was meeting regularly with John Burt, another fundamentalist minister and abortion opponent who served 60 days in jail in 1993 for his terrorist activities at abortion clinics. Burt supplied Griffin with antiabortion literature and films and invited him to join the regular picketing at the Pensacola clinic where Dr. Gunn worked and was slain.
Griffin originally asked to defend himself, but later agreed that a criminal attorney should be hired. An insanity plea apparently was considered but dropped when examining doctors found him mentally competent. One psychologist did describe him as "a chronically maladjusted person most likely suffering from a personality disorder with prominent paranoid features."
While awaiting trial, Griffin corresponded with another fundamentalist bible fanatic, Rachelle Shannon, who was convicted in March of attempted murder in the shooting of Dr. George Tiller last August in Wichita. Tiller was wounded in both arms, but was able to return to work.
Griffin's trial lasted two weeks, including one week of jury selection. The jury deliberated less than three hours.
Foundation member Julius Wernicke had praise for the prosecution, especially assistant state attorney Jim Murray.
"He was impressive," Julius told us. "He gave a masterpiece of a closing statement that lasted 90 minutes, and he never faltered."
Griffin was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
NOW, in a candlelight ceremony, has placed a plaque in memory of Dr. Gunn on Cordova Square in Pensacola.
Anne Gaylor is Foundation co-founder and president.