Archive for Friday, January 8, 2010

Man accused of killing George Tiller will be allowed to present evidence of his beliefs

Still prohibited from using so-called ‘necessity defense’

January 8, 2010, 1:00 p.m. Updated January 8, 2010, 11:11 p.m.


— A man accused of killing one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers can try to build a case that the slaying was voluntary manslaughter because he sincerely believed it was necessary to save unborn babies, a Kansas judge ruled Friday.

Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Dr. George Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor’s Wichita church. Roeder has pleaded not guilty and his trial begins Monday.

Roeder faces life imprisonment if convicted of first-degree murder. A voluntary manslaughter conviction could bring a prison term closer to five years, depending on prior criminal record.

Voluntary manslaughter is defined in Kansas law as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that defense attorneys can present evidence to support such a conviction. He said he will consider everything Roeder’s lawyers present at trial before deciding whether to tell jurors if they can consider a conviction on a lesser offense.

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.

Roeder has confessed to reporters to shooting Tiller, saying it was necessary to save “unborn children.” He filed a motion made public Friday in which he admitted to the court that he killed Tiller, arguing his trial would be a “charade” if he could not present to jurors his only defense. He asked the judge to reconsider his decision last month prohibiting a so-called necessity defense.

Such a defense would allow his attorneys to argue for acquittal on the grounds that the shooting was justified.

Wilbert again denied the request, telling Roeder at Friday’s hearing that the argument “I had to shoot and kill Dr. Tiller to save unborn babies” from abortion doesn’t meet the necessity defense because abortions are legal and there has never been a finding that Tiller was performing illegal abortions. Wilbert said the argument also fails by its very definition because one life is not worth more than another.

The Feminist Majority Foundation, which supports abortion rights, said that despite his repeated rejections of the necessity defense, Wilbert is essentially allowing Roeder to present a justifiable homicide defense.

“It is unconscionable and it is unjustifiable,” said Katherine Spillar, the group’s executive vice president. “We fear it will simply embolden anti-abortion extremists and it will be open season on doctors.”

The group is urging the Justice Department to file federal charges against Roeder under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has denounced Tiller’s killing, but said Roeder should be allowed to stand trial and make his case.

“If this is his defense, he should be able to give it — anybody should — and let the jurors decide,” Newman said.

Jury selection begins Monday.


sad_lawrencian 8 years, 5 months ago

Dear Mr. Roeder:

One wrong doesn't right another. Killing Tiller was the wrong way to express your beliefs and effect change. You are a lunatic and I can't believe anyone (including the press and the judicial system) would give you a forum in which to express your misguided beliefs. Nobody "likes" abortion, but killing a provider of them does not do anything to help the issue. I hope they lock you up for a very long time.

Yours truly,


rbwaa 8 years, 5 months ago

allowing him to present evidence of his 'honest belief that the killing was necessary' opens up the 'necessity defense' and the possibility of jury nullification. this ruling is a slippery slope and deplorable.

Uhjh 8 years, 5 months ago

Ok he is going to present a defense base on some religious believe. This exactly the same as the terrorist they KILL based on a religious believe. The doctor was doing something that is legal in the United States period. If you don’t like something spend your time changing the laws not premeditated murder. A lot of the population believes in a woman’s rights. This guy is loon who now is reaching for straws. There is a separation of church and state for a reason. How many would like to belong to his religion that condones murder. Sounds a lot like the terrorist religion, but is just homespun.

raw 8 years, 5 months ago

Mr Roeder is not a good or moral man. He murdered a Kansas physician that cared more for his patients than most Kansas physicians. This man saved a womans life when no other physician in Kansas would -simply because he cared. I will always remember him for his kindness and generosity.

brett conrad 8 years, 5 months ago

Mr Roeder is not a good man he is a murdering worthless human being, that we should not waste time or money defending. There is no way to justify someone shooting a defenseless man in his church in front of men, women and children.

Amy Heeter 8 years, 5 months ago

He should be able to present his defense. After hearing it the jury may well consider him insane wether or not he is pleading such. Hopefully he will only be found guilty of a lesser offense.

puddleglum 8 years, 5 months ago

this article is very poorly written:

Wilbert again denied the request

He asked the judge to reconsider his decision last month prohibiting a so-called necessity defense.

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that defense attorneys can present evidence to support such a conviction

so he can or he can't? please remember how successful chronological reporting is.....this reads like some stupid tv commercial.

50YearResident 8 years, 5 months ago

This defense is total BS. Roeder was not defending either himself or any unborn child. This was clearly premiditated murder an he deserves the maxium penalty available under the law.

brujablanco 8 years, 5 months ago

The judge is being very careful to avoid any possibility of the conviction being overturned on appeal. Artichoke, that is the most deplorable attitude toward human life I have ever heard. You have made it perfectly clear you condone murder. The FBI has a careful watch going to keep this from happening again - I certainly hope you are on their list.

pace 8 years, 5 months ago

Great being a narcissistic crazy hater is now a defense. I can't wait for the new lines of defense. I hated Mondays, I hate people of other faiths, I hate red heads. Serial killers going with it was a bad habit and everyone is entitled to bad habits.

brujablanco 8 years, 5 months ago

Narcissistic redheads, perhaps.................................

tomatogrower 8 years, 5 months ago

I hope the prosecution can bring up that fact that he didn't pay child support. He is a liar. He could care less about children. He didn't even take care of his own.

Ralph Reed 8 years, 5 months ago

A better written article is on the Wichita Eagle website.

Read the next to last paragraph.

"Wilbert said his comments Friday were meant to instruct lawyers. He said he would leave final rulings for trial."

Nothing has been decided yet except that the necessity defense is out. Jury selection begins Monday, it's going to be hard to find someone not tainted. /*/ @Tom, re your 1741 8 Jan: How do you know Foulston is "utterly disgusting?" Have you met her or talked with her? Do you know her?

Baseless comment and you know it.

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