Murder of Jim Pouillon
The murder of Jim Pouillon occurred on September 11, 2009, when pro-life activist James Pouillon was shot dead while protesting abortion in front of Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan. It was evidently the first time an activist had ever been murdered while protesting abortion. Soon after the shooting, police were alerted to another murder, that of local businessman Michael Fuoss, which they linked to Pouillon's killer. Police arrested Harlan James Drake and charged him with both crimes. Drake was later declared fit to stand trial, where he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, and was subsequently sentenced to two life sentences.
Jim Pouillon was a well-known Michigan activist and member of Operation Save America. An elderly man dependent on oxygen tank to breathe, he had been protesting abortion since 1988. On the day he was shot, Pouillon was leading a protest across the street from Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan.
Shooting and arrest
During the protest, Pouillon was shot at 7:20 a.m. EDST by a gunman in a passing vehicle. One witness recorded the vehicle's license plate number. Meanwhile, police were alerted to another murder, of businessman Michael Fuoss at a gravel business he owned. An hour after Pouillon's shooting, police located and arrested the owner of the vehicle, Harlan James Drake. Drake indicated he had shot both victims.
Pouillon's murder was evidently the first time an activist had ever been killed while protesting abortion. Authorities said Fuoss was not connected to the pro-life movement. Police said Drake was offended by pro-life material that Pouillon had displayed across from the school for the previous week. A Center for Reproductive Rights spokesperson said the shooting did not seem to be tied to the abortion debate.
While in custody awaiting trial, Drake attempted suicide by breaking a TV and using the broken glass to cut his wrists. Drake was later declared fit to stand trial. In 2004, Drake was involved — but not legally responsible — in a motor-vehicle accident that killed two teenagers. Drake's attorney, Robert Ashley, argued that Drake suffered from depression stemming from the crash and was therefore mentally incompetent at the time of the murders. Drake testified about how he committed the murder, and even cracked jokes during his testimony. His testimony proved to be very damning to his case. On March 11, 2010, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts of first-degree murder.
On September 30, 2009 Drake was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was remanded into the custody of the Michigan Department of Mental Health. On April 22, 2010, Drake received life imprisonment and expressed no remorse for any pain caused to the families. Drake himself said he should go to jail "forever."
Several pro-life groups and leaders have deemed Pouillon a martyr. Lori Lamerand, president of Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan, stated the killing was tragic and expressed concerns people would retaliate. President Barack Obama has called the killing "deplorable" and stated that, "whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer." Pouillon's funeral was held at the Owosso High School football stadium.
Soon after the murder Pouillon's estranged son James M. Pouillon, a podiatrist in Grand Rapids, criticized his father in an online post. This post, which was quickly circulated in the media, attributed Pouillon's activism to a "pathological hatred of women" and explained that "He did this to stalk, harass, terrorize, scream at, threaten, frighten, and verbally abuse women... He was at the high school because my niece was there, and female family members were always his favorite targets." It stated that Pouillon's goal was "to make someone so angry, to make them feel so terrorized, to make them feel the only way they could make him stop was to kill him." It concluded that "Owosso is now rid of a madman." Pouillon's daughter Mary Jo offered a different image of her father, saying "He didn't want to hurt anyone that hadn't hurt him or his family." Mary Jo Pouillon sang in a memorial service that drew pro-life activists from across the country.
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