by Steven Ertelt
October 29, 2007
Topeka, KS (LifeNews.com) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a grand jury probe into potentially illegal abortions Wichita late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller may have done will be delayed. The high court said the investigation, which over 7,000 citizens of Sedgwick County signed petitions for, will be delayed at least until November 16.
Attorney General Paul Morrison has filed charges accusing Tiller of breaking the state’s late-term abortion laws but pro-life advocates say there are many more violations.
The Kansas Supreme Court granted an indefinite stay in the proceedings so it can respond to legal papers Tiller’s attorneys recently filed. Chief Justice Kay McFarland said the high court issued its decision "by virtue of the unique circumstances of this case and to allow full consideration of the petition."
"We will not start a grand jury on Tuesday as scheduled," Sedgwick County Chief Judge Michael Corrigan said in response.
Don Monnat, one of Tiller’s lawyers, said it could take more than a year for the state court to fully examine all of the issues involved.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the group heading the petition effort, said she wasn’t surprised by the decision.
"We don’t expect a lot out of this court when it comes to this issue, so I’m not overly surprised," she told the Wichita Eagle newspaper.
“Kansans for Life is certain we have worked well within the statutory framework of the Kansas grand jury procedure — an important check and balance that ensures that powerful men like George Tiller cannot buy immunity from investigation,” she said.
Earlier this month, District Judge Paul Buchanan turned back an effort by Tiller’s attorneys to dismiss the petition and said the grand jury would be summoned eventually.
State law requires grand juries to be summoned within 60 days of the approval of the signature effort. The grand jury is scheduled to convene Tuesday in Sedgwick County.
Lee Thompson, another attorney for Tiller, called the potential probe harassment against Tiller and he wants the high court to prevent the jury from convening.
“This is a proceeding brought for harassment and in bad faith by the petition gatherers,” he told the Associated Press. “You approach the level of vigilantism, and I think we see that happening in this instance.”
Culp said her group requested the grand jury probe because Tiller groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars influencing Kansas politics, including backing Morrison.
She says the probe is needed because there are likely many more violations of state law that Morrison is failing to pursue.
“Nothing Dr. Tiller or any of his lawyers do surprises me — nothing,” Culp said. “It makes you wonder just what it is they’re so afraid of.”
“The Tiller situation is the perfect example of why this venue ought to be available to the public,” Culp added.
Should the grand jury move forward, it would be the second one following another probe 18 months ago that cleared Tiller of any wrongdoing in connection with the legal abortion death of a mentally disabled 19-year-old girl from Texas.
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.
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.
Related web sites:
Kansans for Life – https://www.kfl.org