Wichita Lawyers for a man who has publicly admitted killing a Kansas abortion provider have asked a judge to move his trial out of Wichita, arguing potential jurors have been subject to such vast pretrial publicity that it becomes “legal fiction” to assume jurors will presume him innocent.
Defense attorneys for Scott Roeder also said in their motion, made public Thursday, that for tactical reasons the prosecution is not seeking the admission of his “confession” at trial.
Roeder is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 11 in Sedgwick County District Court. The 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man is charged with first-degree murder in the May 31 shooting death of Dr. George Tiller. He also is charged with two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the melee in the foyer of the doctor’s Wichita church.
“The death of George Tiller represented the confluence of controversial issues deeply ingrained into the mindset of multiple generations of Wichita residents,” defense attorneys wrote, noting the “point-blank shooting of the world’s most famous abortionist, accomplished in a House of Worship, set against the background of the heated, bitter debate which surrounds the act of human abortion.”
His lawyers cited as an example the Wichita Eagle, which ran daily stories relating to the death of Tiller and the defendant for 11 days following the shooting. They noted Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston was widely quoted claiming the defendant was engaged in acts of American “terrorism.”
Roeder said in a call from jail Thursday that his attorneys have also tried to get Foulston removed from the case, but the judge refused. There is no indication of such a move in the court record, but some motions have been filed under seal or argued during closed hearings.
The request for a change in venue was filed Tuesday, a day after Roeder told The Associated Press and the Kansas City Star in jailhouse calls that he shot Tiller to save unborn children. He also said he had no regrets.
“Much of the information disseminated to the people of Sedgwick County relative to the defendant’s background will be inadmissible at the trial of this matter, and additionally, for tactical reasons, the State will not be seeking the admission of much of the material, including his ’confession,”’ defense attorneys wrote.
A hearing on the matter is set for Dec. 22 before Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert.