by Steven Ertelt
October 2, 2007
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — A Kansas judge has ruled that a petition effort to get a grand jury to investigate late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller of Wichita can move ahead. District Judge Paul Buchanan turned back an effort by Tiller’s attorneys on Monday to dismiss the petition and said the grand jury would be summoned eventually.
Kansans for Life submitted petitions recently to invoke a law allowing citizens to petition for a grand jury probe. They want a grand jury to investigate abortions Tiller did that may have contravened state law.
State law requires grand juries to be summoned within 60 days of the approval of the signature effort.
Though the effort to block the grand jury was dismissed, Judge Buchanan noted that the district attorney’s office can dismiss the case even if the grand jury indicts Tiller’s for doing illegal late-term abortions.
Tiller’s lawyers called the petition effort a campaign by “vigilante groups” with a political agenda and pointed to a grand jury last year that failed to return an indictment against the abortion practitioner.
“This is harassment. This is multiple prosecution,” Lee Thompson told the Associated Press.
“He hasn’t committed any crime. This is a political prosecution — not really a disinterested group of citizens bringing a petition to investigate crime,” attorney Dan Monnat added.
In court, Deputy Sedgwick County District Attorney Ann Swegle said the petitions shouldn’t be dismissed because a case hasn’t been brought yet.
Kansans for Life, which brought the petition effort, told AP that the group was not notified of the hearing on the request to dismiss it.
“I am glad we won — even though we didn’t know we were in a fight,” spokesman David Gittrich said. “I am delighted he ruled that Kansas laws have some meaning. The statute says if you have enough signatures, you will convene a grand jury. It doesn’t give them the option of not doing it.”
This is the second time Tiller lawyers tried to block the process.
Last month, Federal Court Judge J. Thomas Marten denied Tiller’s request to stop the process from moving ahead, saying, "Frankly, I’m reluctant to jump into the middle of something that is essentially a state matter. The odds that any appellate court would uphold any injunction in this case would be pretty remote."
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale certified that 6,963 valid signatures were submitted, nearly three times the 2,449 signatures required under the statute.
Tiller has already been charged by Attorney General Paul Morrison with doing 19 illegal late-term abortions. He allegedly did not have an independent physician sign off on the abortions and certify they were medically necessary.
Morrison has refused to investigate any other records even though his predecessor Phill Kline found that other abortions Tiller’s center did violated the law, and in more serious ways.
Gittrich previously talked with LifeNews.com about the petition effort.
Kansas law prohibits these post-viable abortions except in dire emergencies or when the life of the mother is immediately threatened.
Since 1998, when this law went into effect, there have been over 2,519 post-viable abortions performed.
"We don’t believe that all of the 2,519 women were in danger of having substantial and irreversible injuries to major bodily functions as the law dictates," Gittrich said. "Kansas statistics reveal that none were done where the life of the mother was threatened. Therefore, many of these post-viable abortions are against the law."
Kansans for Life is requesting that the District Court appoint an independent prosecutor so that neither Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office nor the Kansas Attorney General’s office will be associated with the grand jury.
That’s because both have received political support from Tiller-associated groups.