Judge Rejects Scott Roeder’s Necessity Defense in George Tiller Murder Trial
by Steven Ertelt
December 22, 2009
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — A judge ruled today that Kansas law does not allow a man accused of killing late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller to use a necessity defense. Scott Roeder hoped to be able to tell the court that he killed Tiller because his death was necessary to save the lives of unborn children.
But Judge Warren Wilbert denied that line of defense for the man who has no affiliated with any pro-life groups and who has confessed in media interviews to killing Tiller.
According to an AP report, Judge Wilbert cited a 1993 criminal trespassing case involving an abortion center as his reason for turning back the defense argument. In the case, the Kansas Supreme Court said state law allows no room for personal beliefs to allow unlawful activities.
The state court’s ruling said allowing it would "not only lead to chaos but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy."
Judge Wilbert did note that Roeder’s case involves taking a life and to merely the destruction of property or misdemeanor crimes, but AP noted him saying he didn’t want to make that kind of assessment.
"That is certainly not a position I want to be in because I am not God," Wilbert said.
Despite the ruling, the judge told Roeder’s defense attorneys he would "leave the door open" to consider whether to allow evidence based on the legitimate use of force for the defense of another person before allowing the jury to hear it.
"That doesn’t mean it is wide open … we can discuss it," Wilbert said, according to AP.
Judge Wilbert also rejected a change of venue request and a defense motion that would have prevented prosecutors from striking jurors based on their abortion views. The judge said he would take disputes over jurors on a person-by-person basis.
Now that the judge has issued the rulings, a trial date is set for January 11.
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.
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."
Now that the defense has been rejected, Roeder and his attorneys will be forced to rely on some other line of reasoning during the trial. Similar trials have seen shooters’ bids to use the defense rejected.
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.
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