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Scheherazade On January - 8 - 2010

WICHITA, KS — This afternoon during a final pretrial hearing Sedgwick County Judge Warren Wilbert ruled for a second time that Scott Roeder cannot use a necessity defense in his trial, but he has now ruled that Scott Roeder can submit evidence proving that he truly believed that the killing of Dr. George Tiller was necessary. This would now leave open the contingency of finding Roeder guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.

“It’s a very real possibility that there would be evidence that would require me to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter,” Judge Wilbert said, but added “I’m giving counsel a heads-up. This will not become a trial on the bigger issue of abortion. It will be limited to Mr. Roeder’s beliefs and how he came to form those beliefs.”

Despite Judge Wilbert’s words of caution, this new development leaves open the very distinct likelihood that the issue of abortion itself will become even more of a central theme during the trial, which is set to begin at 9:00am CST on Monday January 11, 2010 (Case No. 09CR1462).

Needless to say this has stirred strong feelings on both sides of the abortion issue. Ms. Magazine‘s Feminist Wire reported that Katherine Spillar, the Executive Vice President of Feminist Majority Foundation, had the following response to the ruling:

Today’s perplexing decision is effectively back-door permission for admitted killer Scott Roeder to use a ‘justifiable homicide’ defense that is both un-justifiable and unconscionable.

Allowing an argument that this cold-blooded, premeditated murder could be voluntary manslaughter will embolden anti-abortion extremists and could result in ‘open season’ on doctors across the country.

Roeder, 51, is accused of the premeditated murder of late term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller who was shot to death at point blank range while attending church on Sunday May 31, 2009. Roeder has confessed to the crime saying he committed the murder in order to save “unborn children,” but he has pleaded not guilty. Roeder is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault against two ushers in the foyer of Tiller’s church.

The prosecution has considerable evidence against Mr. Roeder that includes eye witnesses and previous anti-abortion related criminal activity. He also has had ties to anti-government organizations as well as Operation Rescue.

Democratic Underground.com has posted this comment by Roeder to Operation Rescue’s website:

Scott Roeder Says:
May 19th, 2007 at 4:34 pm
Bleass everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp.
Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.

The Boston Herald reports that David Roeder, brother of Scott Roeder, has said Scott has suffered from mental illness on and off throughout his life. Yet, he goes on to say that “none of us ever saw Scott as a person capable of or willing to take another person’s life. Our deepest regrets, prayers and sympathy go out to the Tiller family during this terrible time.”

Categories: News & Politics

26 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    All of these comments are so insightful and well reasoned! I can’t add anything that hasn’t been said, but I want to echo a few of these comments and say that I cannot see how the necessity defense is valid, as Tiller was acting within the law. That seems to me to make all the difference between Roeder and the hypothetical fellow trying to prevent a murder by committing an accidental murder. The hypothetical guy was trying to prevent an illegal act, even if he did so in a premeditated way.

    If the necessity defense stands, I agree it will open a huge can of worms--and snakes and scorpions. What’s to prevent someone from assassinating a president who is contemplating a war that some people don’t approve of? Would assassinating Hitler have been a “necessity?”

    To me, the only possible legitimate example of the necessity would be in the moment that someone sees an impending act of murder or bodily harm. It cannot ever be premeditated, as that would mean there was time to call law enforcement.

  2. escribacat says:

    What screwball logic. This means that any politically-motivated killing could go after the same defense.

  3. abby4ever says:

    ‘Roeder has confessed to the crime saying he committed the murder in order to save

    • choicelady says:

      If the judge allows this, and the jury agrees with you,abby, then they cannot convict him of this seeing it as premeditated murder, so he gets off. It is NOT clear if he would be tried again -- it’s too close to double jeopardy. Then the only option would be the federal FACE laws, raising the ire of the religious right AGAIN and deepening the divisions over abortion. No one wins here, least of all justice. The judge is walking on hugely dangerous ground, but he fails to see it. If I feel threatened by these people -- do I get to shoot them fearing they will kill a doctor or patient or anyone else? Where does it end? He’s a damned fool!

    • Scheherazade says:

      Here’s an older article I wrote regarding this case
      Judge Rejects

      • choicelady says:

        Thank you, Sher -- that’s very well reasoned. Our only hope is that the federal prosecutors will take up his violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law as they did with James Kopp who murdered Bart Slepian in Buffalo. But this is terrifying -- the idea that you have an idea in your mind that allows you to walk up to a man and shoot him dead and then get slapped on the wrist -- where will that lead other than chaos and anarchy? Anyone can say they thought they “had” to kill someone else for fear of (fill in the blank). Outrageous!!

  4. choicelady says:

    Manslaughter? MANSLAUGHTER? Not in a million years is that remotely acceptable! This is no different from James Kopp sneaking up behind the house of Bart Slepian and shooting him through his own kitchen window -- claiming the necessity defense to stop Bart from “killing more babies”. Yes SueinCA -- it IS a federal crime because it was designed to interfere with the right of women to access the services of abortion. It is covered by the federal FACE act of 1994.

    I knew both men, Bart and George Tiller. I made it a point to understand what they did, what their feelings were.

    Tiller did do late term abortions -- on fetuses that could not live outside the womb and the death of which would harm or kill the mother. While I was interviewing him, a couple came in, older, not kids, and she was clearly about 8 months along. The look on their faces was horrible -- these were people who had celebrated the pregnancy and had just learned there’d be no baby. It had no brain. All those months of waiting, hoping, being excited -- dashed beyond all repair. If a fetus dies in utero, it can kill the mother, it can ruin her ability to have another child, it can cause lifelong complications. Tiller was there to help these parents who so much WANTED this child, come to terms with the fact that it would never be.

    Tiller had a Methodist minister on standby to baptize the fetuses afterwards if the parents so desired. He told me how terribly misformed these poor creatures were. He was there to offer comfort when and where he could.

    And so because a handful of idiots made up lies that these were healthy infants just wantonly killed for no reason, Scott Roeder went to Tiller’s church and blew him away. Manslaughter? MANSLAUGHTER????? This was cold blooded murder and arrogance beyond measure. I do NOT believe in the death penalty -- Kopp has life without parole -- but I am more than happy to have this disgusting egotist, this wanton criminal, slapped behind bars forever. Maybe then he will remember the 6th commandment of the Bible he thinks he believes in. Maybe then he will remember it was HE who was the murderer, not George.

    That the judge could even allow this is scary. If this man walks or gets off lightly, mark my words, there will be more and more murders. They have NO right to be judge, jury and executioner of anyone with whom they disagree, because if they believe in the “necessity defense” -- then so will those of us who are their targets have to do the same. And then civilization will end, and all hope for love, community, respect, and attempts at understanding will be over. They do not know what they sow; they do not know what they may reap.

    • escribacat says:

      This killing was an assassination. I can’t imagine how it could be judged as anything else. I take this as a bit of legal mumbo jumbo and continue to assume this murderer will spend the rest of his life rotting in prison. If that is NOT what happens, I think there will be some serious trouble.

    • jan4insight says:

      I feel your rage, choicelady. In fact I would go further than murder 1 and name Roeder’s crime for what it really is: an act of terrorism!

      • choicelady says:

        BTW -- Jan4 -- I should have said right at the beginning that your support means the world. Thank you so much! It really helps to read your kind words.

      • choicelady says:

        Absolutely! These guys have links to other domestic terrorist groups -- John Salvi was part of the militia in Massachusetts -- and are “multi mission extremists”. If the judge allows this plea, he is giving permission to anyone who thinks it’s OK to take the law into their own hands. Then it’s OK to kill the president because he is doing something someone thinks is dangerous. It’s OK to kill someone for ANY reason. The judge is courting sheer anarchy. We would have to hope that the federal court will assume second jurisdiction, as happened in NY, after this. It is possible to pursue a completely separate charge. James Kopp got 25-to-life for Bart Slepian’s murder but life without parole on the federal charges of murdering Bart in order to stop a legal process AND to instill fear in other providers. Bart’s widow and sons will never have to fear he will be set free. I hope for that for Mrs. Tiller as well. This judge is disgusting.

  5. SueInCa says:

    I guess this cannot be a federal case since he kiled Dr. Tiller at his church, unless killing on church property is a fed offense. If it were, it could be worse with all the right wing judges that bush appointed. I hope this judge keeps his word and does not let this be about abortion although it is the underlying reason for the cold blooded murder, it is also about a hatred and paranoia so deep that it would take a thousand years for most citizens to understand. Unfortunately for the rest of us these right wing evangelistic people are so deep in to doing what their religious leaders tell them, they have forgotten what free thinking is, if they ever knew.

    • Khirad says:

      How come we don’t track down who these people are being preached to by or connecting with? i mean, we did, of course, with the hardcore pro-Life groups. But, do they have to be in Yemen for us to have the same amount of outrage for our own homegrown religious terrorist problem?

  6. Chernynkaya says:

    Scher, thank you for all the really valuable and professional work you do here. You are like our personal news service and it truly enhances the site. I mean that. There should be a separate category for your news stories-- and for others who write these types of posts too. It is a talent and very much appreciated!

  7. Khirad says:

    BS, I’m not gonna get worked up for this. How do we measure what someone ‘believed’, and why should we care when the intent was so clear? What if I believed killing ‘X’ was ‘necessary’? Seriously, why not let us all get away with manslaughter? Any lawyers in the house to explain this to me?

  8. Kalima says:

    ” voluntary manslaughter,” this was an open and shut case of premeditated murder. I can’t understand this decision for the life of me, since when is this even an option?

    I feel so bad for Dr. Tillers family having to listen to such drivel. Where is the justice for the victim?

  9. KQuark says:

    It’s taking me ever once of restraint not to blow up over this news. This would be as big an injustice as “the Twinkies defense” if he gets anything short of 1st degree. If this was not a case involving murderous intent then they need to change all the law books in the country.

    • javaz says:

      I cannot believe the judge would even consider this defense for pre-meditated murder.
      The statement from Katherine Spillar says it all.
      This could set a very dangerous precedent.

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