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Jury Selection in Kopp Murder Trial on Schedule

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Jury selection in the James Kopp murder trial is scheduled to begin next week. On Monday, the defense argued that Kopp's rights are being violated as he faces state and federal charges in the death of Dr. Barnett Slepian.

Defense attorney Bruce Barket says his clients rights are being violated because Kopp must simultaneously defend himself in state and federal court.

"All of these other cases, where there has been state and federal violations for the same act, if prosecuted in the same place, they are sequential," Barket explained. "One follows the next. But in this instance they are forcing Jim (Kopp) to defend both cases at the same time."

Kopp was originally charged with intentional murder. But after confessing to the shooting of Slepian, prosecutors issued another indictment that charged him with a new count of reckless murder with depraved indifference to human life. Barket argued Monday that the superseding indictment violates the extradition treaty agreed to by French authorities that brought Kopp back to the US.

"It seems fairly clear that the French, who struck the reckless endangerment count from the indictment before permitting Kopp to be extradited, would have never permitted him to be extradited for a reckless murder count," Barket said. "He was extradited for one count and one count only, intentional murder."

But the extradition agreement assured France that the US would not seek the death penalty against Kopp. And prosecutors argue that it does not violate the order.

Kopp also faces a two-count federal indictment charging him with the use of deadly force to prevent Slepian from providing reproductive health service and with using a firearm to commit a violent crime.

Prosecutors and the defense believe jury selection will last about two weeks, with opening arguments slated to begin March 17th.