Wichita A judge on Tuesday dealt setbacks to the defense of a man accused of killing an abortion provider, rejecting a change of venue request and a motion that would have kept prosecutors from making peremptory jury strikes based on potential jurors' beliefs about abortion.
While the judge denied a defense motion to prohibit the strikes, he said he would deal with such issues on a person-by-person basis during Scott Roeder's trial. Minutes earlier, he denied a defense motion to move the case out of Wichita, where pre-trial publicity has been intense.
Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., 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 ushers during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor's Wichita church.
District Judge Warren Wilbert was to rule later Tuesday on a motion to allow Roeder to pursue a so-called "necessity defense." Roeder, who has publicly confessed to shooting Tiller, wants to claim at his trial that the slaying was justified to save the lives of unborn children.
If the judge rejects that defense, Roeder and his attorneys would not be allowed to make that argument to jurors. Similar efforts to use such a strategy in cases involving abortion-related violence have generally been banned, including at the 1993 trial of an Oregon woman accused of shooting and wounding Tiller.
Roeder, who has pleaded not guilty, confessed to the shooting on Nov. 9, telling The Associated Press he had no regrets about killing Tiller and suggesting the necessity defense should be the only contested issue at his trial. He declined to say when asked if he would kill another abortion provider if he were acquitted.
The "necessity defense" has rarely been used successfully in abortion cases. Roeder's attorneys — while arguing that their client has a right to present his theory of defense — have so far kept their own strategy secret.
Prosecutors have overwhelming evidence against Roeder, chiefly the witnesses who identified him during a July preliminary hearing as the shooter. Legal experts have said prosecutors likely will want to keep the trial limited to a straightforward murder case and avoid a discussion of abortion.