!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Barbara Dortch-Okara
Barbara Dortch-Okara was a participant or observer in the following events:
A jury convicts anti-abortion activist John Salvi of murdering two people and attempting to kill five others at two Massachusetts abortion clinics (see December 30, 1994 and After). Salvi’s lawyers fail in attempting to prove him insane, dubbing him a paranoid schizophrenic who is not legally responsible for his actions. In a statement to the court, Salvi refused to apologize for his actions, and instead told the court of his theories of a widespread anti-Catholic conspiracy. “As you know, I haven’t pled guilty though I am against abortion,” Salvi told the court. “My position is pro-welfare state, pro-Catholic labor union, and, basically, pro-life.” Salvi is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences as well as lengthy jail terms for the assault convictions. Planned Parenthood official Nicki Nichols Gamble says she hopes the verdict “will help to de-escalate the climate of fear and violence that has surrounded the services we provide.” Mark Nichols, the brother of Lee Ann Nichols, one of Salvi’s victims, says after the verdict is read, “Justice was done.” Ruth Ann Nichols, Lee Ann’s mother, said in a victim statement to Salvi and the court: “Without hesitation, I hope you have sheer misery every day of your life, as you have brought all the families. I request and hope that every December 30th they put you in solitary confinement.” Salvi’s attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., says he will appeal based on Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara’s refusal to allow Salvi to testify; towards the very end of the trial, Carney tried to assert Salvi’s right to testify, but attempted to limit the areas in which the prosecution could cross-examine him, and the judge refused to allow the restricted testimony. Carney told the jury that Salvi was a “sick, sick young man” who should be placed in a state mental facility. Prosecutor John Kivlan called Salvi an anti-abortion zealot and a “terrorist” who was lucid and sane enough to shoot seven people in three clinics in two states and avoid, for a time, a massive police manhunt. The prosecution showed that Salvi had attended meetings of anti-abortion groups and had literature from those groups, but could not show any links to the organized anti-abortion movement. [Washington Post, 3/19/1996; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39] In November 1996, Salvi will commit suicide in his jail cell. His convictions will be voided by Dortch-Okara because he will be unable to complete his appeals process due to his suicide, a technical ruling that will cause great pain to the family members of his victims. Ruth Ann Nichols will tell reporters, “I have to tell you the truth, it’s as if John Salvi is coming from the grave to bring me some hurt.” [New York Times, 2/2/1997]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.