TOPEKA Attorney General Phill Kline today said he will appoint a special prosecutor to take over his investigation into abortions performed by George Tiller.
Kline's announcement came just minutes before a scheduled hearing in Wichita in front of a judge who last week dismissed 30 misdemeanor charges that Kline filed against Tiller.
Kline, who is leaving office Jan. 8 after losing his re-election bid, said he will appoint Don McKinney, an attorney from Wichita, to be the "independent special prosecutor."
McKinney "will have full discretion regarding how the state will proceed with its case against Mr. Tiller," Kline said in a prepared statement.
Kline, an ardent abortion opponent, has accused Tiller of performing illegal late term abortions. Tiller has denied the charge, saying the late-term abortions comply with exceptions to the law.
McKinney, a Democrat, endorsed Kline, a conservative Republican, in last month's election.
Kline lost that contest to Republican-turned-Democrat Paul Morrison.
Morrison criticized Kline repeatedly over the investigation into abortion clinics run by Tiller and Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. He said Kline was abusing his power in the investigation.
In his statement today, Kline said the appointment of McKinney would preserve the investigation once Morrison takes over the attorney general's office.
"This appointment of an independent special prosecutor will remove this investigation from a highly charged political process in which millions of dollars has been spent in media and campaign efforts to elect as Attorney General a candidate who, without reviewing any of the evidence, repeatedly pledged not to pursue this investigation and expended the majority of his campaign criticizing the existence of the investigation," Kline said.
After the election, Morrison asked Kline to hold off on any action in the case.
When asked what he would do with the investigation when he took office, Morrison said, "That is an open case now, and I have an obligation to look at all open cases up there, which we will do, and we'll do that quickly. We will give that the attention that deserves. Whether that's a lot or a little, remains to be seen."