Judge in Killing of Abortion Practitioner George Tiller Considering Roeder Motions
by Steven Ertelt
December 21, 2009
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — The judge who is presiding over the case involving the killing of late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller will be considering motions tomorrow. The motions come from the defense of Scott Roeder, the militia activist accused of killing Tiller at his church this summer.
District Judge Warren Wilbert has yet to rule on a request for a change of venue for the trial and another motion to allow Roeder to use a justification defense.
The defense would argue that he was justified in killing Tiller because Tiller’s death would result in saving the lives of unborn children.
Roeder was not affiliated with any pro-life organizations and the pro-life movement has soundly condemned his shooting and pointed out that Tiller was close to having his medical license revoked — which could have put him out of business legitimately.
Roeder, a 51-year-old man from Kansas City, is charged with one count of premeditated, first-degree murder in Dr. George Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two people at Tiller’s church on his way out of the building after the shooting.
Once Judge Wilbert issues rulings on the motions, the trial date is planned for January 11.
Since the killing, Roeder has confessed to killing Tiller.
"I choose this action I am accused of because of the necessity defense," Roeder told The Associated Press in November. "I want to make sure that the focus is, of course, obviously on the preborn children and the necessity to defend them."
But if Judge Wilbert rejects the defense, Roeder and his attorneys would be forced to rely on some other line of reasoning during the trial. Since similar trials have seen shooters’ bids to use the defense rejected, it is expected that will occur with Roeder, who has pleaded not guilty.
Some observers believe Roeder’s attorneys will eventually settle on a voluntary manslaughter charge request, which is defined in Kansas as "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force."
Meanwhile, the AP reports that David Leach, an Iowa based activist, is preparing motions to help Roeder use the necessity defense in case he decides to represent himself in court.
Roeder faces a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years if he is found guilty on the first-degree murder charge. A conviction on a charge of voluntary manslaughter for someone like Roeder, who has no criminal history, could bring a sentence of 5 years in prison, AP indicates.
Church member Gary Hoepner was the first witness called at a preliminary hearing for Roeder in July and said Roeder pointed a gun at Tiller’s head and killed him.
I wasn’t sure if it was a cap gun or what," Hoepner said, noting that he wasn’t certain that the assailant had a real gun to use to hurt Tiller. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing."
Hoepner said he and Tiller were discussing Tiller’s fondness of doughnuts at the time he was shot.
"I’ve got a gun and I’ll shoot you’," Hoepner recalled Roeder saying. "I believed him and I stopped."
After the incident, Hoepner told the court that he wrote down the license plate of Roeder’s vehicle and informed police.
The court also heard that Roeder attended Tiller’s church several times before, including the Sunday prior to the church service during which he allegedly shot the abortion practitioner.
Roeder says he is not mentally ill now, although his family members have told the media that he has suffered from mental health issues throughout his life. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late teens and Roeder blames that on drug use at the time.
Tiller was one of the few abortion practitioners in the United States to do late-term abortions and he had been a subject of legal and peaceful efforts by pro-life groups at the time of the shooting.
Organizations had been working to get the state medical board to revoke Tiller’s license because of allegations that some of the abortions he did violated state law but not having an independent physician certify they were necessary.
Hundreds of pro-life groups condemned the Tiller shooting immediately or in the days following, but that didn’t stop abortion advocates from claiming they supported the killing or calling the majority of Americans who take a pro-life view "terrorists."
National Right to Life, a large nationwide pro-life group, said it "extends its sympathies to Dr. Tiller’s family over this loss of life."
"The National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation. The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal," it said.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has already come under fire for ignoring one tip about Scott Roeder, the alleged shooter of late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. Now, new reports indicate the FBI also ignored a letter sent by Roeder relatives warning he may engage in a violent action.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it received a letter more than a month before Tiller was shot and killed warning that he would harm an abortion practitioner.
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton confirmed to the Associated Press that Mark Archer, who is fighting with his wife for custody over a child that Roeder fathered, sent a letter detailing his concerns.
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