by Steven Ertelt
August 21, 2007
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — A new judge has been assigned in the case of misdemeanor charges filed against Kansas’ late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. The assignment comes after a judge previously assigned the case stepped down because he is a former pro-life state legislator who had spoken out against Tiller.
The state’s attorney general has accused Tiller of violating a law that requires a second, independent physician to sign off on the late-term abortions.
Sedgwick County District Judge Anthony Powell recused himself after Tiller’s lawyers filed legal papers asking him to take his name off the case.
Now, District Judge Clark V. Owens, selected by Chief Judge Michael Corrigan, has been appointed to oversee it. Owens previously served as an Assistant District Attorney and head of the Sedgwick County Republican Party.
Mary Kay Culp, the director of Kansans for Life, responded to the change of judge, in an interview with LifeNews.com.
"Kansans for Life hasn’t commented on any judge appointed to this case except to say we were sad to see Powell recuse himself," Culp said.
"Our hope is that like Powell, Owens will accept friend of the court briefs. This case is so clear cut that an impartial judge should have no problem coming to the right conclusion," Culp continued.
Before Powell recused himself, Tiller lawyer Lee Thompson claimed Powell can’t be impartial in the case because the judge once accused Tiller of "defying legal and moral authority" and called abortion "the slaughter of the innocents."
Powell accused Tiller of breaking the 1998 late-term abortion law shortly after its enactment, Thompson pointed out.
On Friday, Powell bowed out from overseeing hearings in the case.
"In a high profile case such as this where the judiciary is on trial as much as the defendant, even a hint of impropriety or even the slightest appearance of partiality must be dealt with to protect our system of justice," Powell said.
Tiller is charged with violating a statute requiring a second physician to sign off on any abortions done late in pregnancy. He could face 19 years in prison if convicted on all charges and given the maximum term.
Under state law, the second doctor must not have any financial connections with the abortion practitioner. Yet, in the 19 cases for which he has been charged, Tiller received a second opinion from abortion practitioner Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who Attorney General Paul Morrison said had financial ties with Tiller.
Tiller’s lawyers responded to the charges by filing a lawsuit contending the law is unconstitutional.
Kansans for Life told LifeNews.com recently that it is collecting the signatures necessary to compel a grand jury to conduct an independent investigation into whether Tiller violated the law in subsequent years.
He has been charged with violations in 2003 but the pro-life organization says he could have violated the law on late-term abortions done from 2004-2007.
Related web sites:
Kansans for Life – https://www.kfl.org