Judge Declines to Stop Scott Roeder Manslaughter Defense in George Tiller Trial
by Steven Ertelt
January 12, 2010
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — A judge ruled on Tuesday for a second time against efforts to stop attorneys for Scott Roeder from using a manslaughter defense in connection with his alleged shooting of late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. Roeder, who has no connection to the pro-life movement, reportedly shot Tiller this summer at his church.
Roeder has been charged with first-degree murder and lesser assault charges for waving a gun at two church members and threatening them on the way out of the church after the shooting.
The main charge would net Roeder a life term in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. However, his defense attorneys are asking that they be allowed to mount a manslaughter defense on his behalf, employing a rarely-used section of Kansas law.
Voluntary manslaughter is defined in Kansas law as ”an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”
In legal papers today, Roeder’s attorneys said Tiller "presented a clear danger to unborn children."
Today, Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert refused a second time to block the request for the manslaughter defense.
He affirmed his ruling on Friday by saying that he can’t rule on the prosecution’s request to deny as admissible any evidence in the case until the defense decides on which evidence it will present.
Yet, according to an AP report, Wilbert warned the defense he was still not persuaded to allow the manslaughter defense, saying he would ”make every effort to try this case as a criminal first-degree murder trial.”
Prosecuting attorneys had filed a motion to stop Roeder’s attorneys from using the defense. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday but the motion pushed that 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.
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 admitted he killed Tiller to stop abortions.
"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 but he 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.
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