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Kopp wants to represent himself

James C. Kopp says he wants to represent himself on federal charges relating to the slaying of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, so a judge set a hearing for April 26 to decide whether he can.

Kopp appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara for arguments on the admissibility of his confession to The Buffalo News that he killed Slepian in October 1998.

Kopp said he only meant to wound Slepian so he could no longer perform abortions.

Kopp's attorney John Humann, a federal public defender, is trying to suppress the statement. Humann argues that Kopp's attorney on the state murder charges, Bruce A. Barket, had a conflict of interest because he also represented a woman who aided Kopp's flight from authorities.

But after Kopp wrote a letter to Arcara, saying he disagreed with his lawyer and stands by his confession, acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter asked that Humann's motion to suppress the statement be declared moot.

Arcara denied that request Tuesday, but after Kopp then sent a message to the judge that he wanted to act as his own lawyer, Arcara adjourned the matter to April.

Federal defendants are allowed to represent themselves, but judges are required to question them to determine if they fully understand the rights they are giving up.

An attorney is usually appointed as a stand-by lawyer to give legal advice.

Kopp, already serving a life sentence for his conviction in Erie County Court for Slepian's murder, faces another possible life term on federal charges of blocking access to abortions.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com