A lawyer for the secret police agent charged with leading the killing of a Warsaw priest pleaded in court today for his client's life to be spared. Attorneys for the other accused killers also asked for less severe punishments than the lengthy jail terms demanded by the state prosecutor.

The court hearing in Torun was interrupted on its 24th day when the lawyer representing a fourth defendant fainted just before she was due to make a final speech. The presiding judge adjourned the trial until Tuesday to allow for the recovery of attorney Barbara Marczuk, who reportedly suffers from a heart condition. She is representing ex-colonel Adam Pietruszka, who is charged with instigating the slaying.

In closing arguments, lawyers for the three junior-ranking police agents who carried out the killing insisted that their clients had not intended to kill the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, only kidnap him. The award-winning service records and positive character references of the accused also were stressed.

The prosecution has sought the death sentence for ex-captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, who commanded the death squad, and 25-year jail terms for ex-lieutenants Waldemar Chmielewski and Leszek Pekala who participated in the crime. A 25-year prison sentence also has been demanded for Pietruszka, the former deputy director of the Interior Ministry department where the three agents served.

"If Piotrowski had at all intended to kill Popieluszko at any point, he could have done it easily with his service pistol," said his lawyer, Jan Ilasz. Instead, Piotrowski beat the priest unconscious with a club.

Chmielewski's attorney argued that some of the items the police agents took with them the night of the slaying last October -- such as a tape recorder and a padlock -- made clear that their intention had been only to abduct the cleric. "The ropes were not intended to kill but to immobilize, the gags not to suffocate but to stop the priest from crying out, the noose to impede his movements," he said.

Piotrowski's lawyer maintained that Pietruszka was mainly responsible for the killing and, for the first time in court, introduced the notion that the former colonel was driven by a desire to gain promotion and replace his department chief, Gen. Zenon Platek. "Some people are shouting that the CIA is responsible and others the KGB, but the fact is that Pietruszka wanted to grab Platek's job," said Ilasz.