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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Former Minister Executed for Murdering Doctor

Aired September 3, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: And a good evening to you. Thanks for joining us.
Paul Hill is dead, executed a little more than an hour ago in Florida.

Hill, a former minister who opened fire on three people outside a woman's clinic in Pensacola in 1994, killed a doctor who performed abortions and the doctor's bodyguard, a retired Air Force veteran. The bodyguard's wife was also wounded in the shooting.

Hill, who said more people should kill abortion providers, died by lethal injection. He is the first person executed in the U.S. for anti-abortion violence.

Now, Brian Cabell has been following the case and a short time ago witnessed the exclusion. He joins us live from Stark, Florida.

Brian, describe to us Paul Hill's final moment. Who was present; what were his last words?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were about 30 witnesses along with three guards in our room and then there were three large window panels through which we could see Paul Hill.

The curtain literally opened on that -- on those windows at 6. A short time later, he had a brief statement. He was strapped in. He was looking straight up at the ceiling, and he issued about a 30- or 40-second statement a little less than some of us, frankly, had expected.

We couldn't see any expression on his face but his voice was reasonably firm, reasonably loud. And a couple things: he thanked his family for their love, but he also said if you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force. Do what you have to do to stop it. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected.

Those were his last words. And then the chemicals were injected and then after about five minutes, one doctor came out and checked him with a stethoscope. He left. A second doctor came out, checked him, nodded to the warden and that was it. All told it took about six minutes.

Again, his demeanor, it was hard to tell, frankly. He had been smiling yesterday. He'd been laughing for a good part of yesterday's press conference. And we're told he woke up this morning at 4:45 in a good mood. He read the Bible. He was talking to guards. He had his final meal.

But when he was strapped into the gurney, frankly, you really couldn't see anything. All you could do was hear his voice for those 30 or 40 seconds.

COOPER: Brian, some people have been warning that Paul Hill's execution could make him a martyr in the eyes of some, spark anti- abortion violence. What's the atmosphere like right now outside the prison?

CABELL: Well, earlier there were about, I would say, 40 protesters, primary anti-abortion pro-Paul Hill protesters. But we have had some serious thunder and lightning and rainstorms over the past hour and a half. Most of them by now have left.

We are waiting, frankly, for the hearse to leave.

But most of those people have left. They have talked to the media. A lot of security here. There were some concerns about that. But we have seen no problems whatsoever, just people with picket signs and people talking to the media.

COOPER: I hope you don't mind a personal question. I don't know if you've ever witnessed an execution before. Few people have. Personally, what was it like to be there?

CABELL: I'll tell you, my initial reaction when we walked through the door was claustrophobia. The room itself is only about 20 by 30 feet and there were 33 of us crammed in there, budded up right against the window. And as soon as I walked through the door, at seven minutes to six, the loudest thunderclap of the day occurred.

As we waited -- they were waiting for the curtains to open, you start feeling just a little bit queasy, I have to admit. I'm looking around to see whether other people are feeling the same thing. But nobody is talking. Absolutely somber, very eerie sort of atmosphere.

But then the curtains open and my reporter's instincts took over, fortunately, and you're simply watching and listening. And after 10, 15 minutes, you feel all right.

But again, the whole process for Paul Hill took about six minutes.

COOPER: All right. Brian Cabell, thanks very much tonight from Florida.

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