Scott Roeder Trial Delayed for Shooting Death of Abortion Practitioner George Tiller
by Steven Ertelt
January 11, 2010
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — The case involving the shooting death of late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller has been delayed as prosecutors seek to challenge a judge’s ruling allowing Scott Roeder’s defense team to potentially use a manslaughter defense against a first-degree murder charge.
Roeder, who has no connections with the pro-life movement, has been accused of killing Tiller.
He admitted he killed Tiller to stop abortions and Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert issued a ruling saying he can try to build a case that the slaying was voluntary manslaughter because he sincerely believed it was necessary to save unborn babies.
Voluntary manslaughter is defined in Kansas law as ”an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”
Now, Judge Wilbert set a hearing on the prosecutions motion for Tuesday in its attempt to stop Roeder’s attorneys from using the defense. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin today and now that will be pushed back to Wednesday.
In their motion, according to the Kansas City Star, prosecutors say allowing such a defense, which could get Roeder a five year prison term instead of a life term, could lead to anarchy.
Taken to its logical extreme, this line of thinking would allow anyone to commit premeditated murder, but only be guilty of manslaughter, simply because the victim holds a different set of moral and political beliefs than the attacker, the prosecution wrote.
Prosecutors also say the law makes it so such a defense requires an imminent threat of harm and that none existed in this case.
The ruling also opened the door to the court hearing about abortion and prosecutors hoped for an open-and-shut murder case.
During the Friday hearing on the manslaughter defense, the judge warned defense attorneys they faced ”a substantial uphill battle” in showing Roeder had a sincere belief that the use of deadly force was necessary in the defense of others. ”This will not become a trial on the bigger issue of abortion. It will be limited to Mr. Roeder’s beliefs,” Wilbert said.
Judge Wilbert already issued an order denying Roeder’s request to use a necessity defense and he issued another one closing the jury selection process to the media.
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."
Roeder faces a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years if he is found guilty on the first-degree murder charge.
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