Monday January 11, 2010

Trial of Abortionist George Tiller’s Killer Begins Wednesday

By Peter J. Smith

WICHITA, Kansas, January 11, 2010 ( – The trial of Scott P. Roeder, the man who has admitted to killing notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller in the foyer of his church, is scheduled to commence Wednesday. The trial has been partially delayed over prosecutor concerns that Roeder could plead guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Roeder faces one count of first-degree murder in the May 31 slaying of Dr. George Tiller and two counts of aggravated assault for brandishing a pistol at two ushers who witnessed the killing and attempted to stop him.

Tiller’s accused murderer has a history of mental instability and association with anarchist groups such as the anti-government Freeman movement during the 1990s and the anti-abortion organization Army of God, which advocates domestic terrorism as an ends-justify-the-means approach to ending abortion.

Although Roeder will not be allowed to argue for acquittal through his “necessity” defense, Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert has allowed Roeder’s attorneys to argue and present witnesses to testify that Roeder is instead guilty of voluntary manslaughter, not first degree murder.

Kansas law defines one case of voluntary manslaughter where an individual acts “upon an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” If the jury accepts that argument, Roeder would receive a much lighter sentence, possibly as little as five years – a worrisome conclusion for the prosecution, which fears the sentence could embolden copy-cat killers targeting Kansas abortionists.

Several previous attempts by pro-lifers to use the necessity defense in Kansas, in cases involving trespassing or the blocking of abortion facility entrances, have been rejected by courts. In 1993 Elizabeth Tilson invoked the necessity defense after she was arrested for blocking access to a Wichita abortion facility; the case went to the Supreme Court, which rejected the defense and said that accepting it would “not only lead to chaos, but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy.”

However, the Kansas City Star reports that Sedgwick county prosecutors argue that failing to bar Roeder from pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter would “enable a defendant to justify premeditated murder because of an emotionally charged political belief.” They cite the fact that since Tiller was at his church and not his clinic, it is difficult to argue lives were in imminent danger.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Roeder’s defense team has subpoenaed former Attorney General Phill Kline, who pursued a criminal investigation against Tiller for violating Kansas law on late term abortions.

“I have received a subpoena by mail and will comply with my legal obligation to appear,” said Kline in a statement. “I still believe in the rule of law, whereas Mr. Roeder has allegedly decided to take the law into his own hands. I have always condemned any act of violence toward Dr. Tiller.” (Read more here)

Roeder’s murder was the first anti-abortion killing of an abortionist in over a decade, since Buffalo, New York abortionist Barnett Slepian was murdered by anti-abortionist James Kopp in 1998.

Tiller’s murder was immediately and roundly condemned by the pro-life community, which denounced the taking of abortionists lives as an immoral means to end abortion, and incompatible with a pro-life ethic.

See related coverage by

A Portrait of an Alleged Murderer: The Life of Suspected Tiller Killer Scott Roede

Roeder Objects to “Being Treated as a Criminal” Before Conviction: Interview with Alleged Tiller Killer