Tiller's killer loses this round

Scott Roeder's "necessity defense" is rejected

Published December 23, 2009 8:01PM (EST)

There was no justification for shooting Dr. George Tiller. It wasn't a courageous feat; it didn't prevent greater harm. Most of us already knew this, of course, but now we can rest assured that when accused killer Scott Roeder goes on trial next month in Wichita for killing the abortion provider, the jury will not be allowed to entertain such an odious plea.

This early Christmas present comes courtesy of Judge Warren Wilbert who on Tuesday rejected Roeder's "necessity defense." In his ruling, the judge said: "I recognize we could all have our own individual personal views, religious views, moral and ethical views. but the United States Supreme Court has come down many, many years ago in Roe v. Wade that an abortion is a legal and constitutionally protected decision by the mother and ... by health care providers." Period.

Here's the thing, though: The confessed killer will still be allowed to argue that he snuffed out Tiller to save the "unborn children" the doctor would have aborted. This could potentially pave the way for a lesser conviction like voluntary manslaughter, which is defined under state law as the "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force." Roeder's belief -- that it was necessary to kill Tiller to prevent the doctor from "murdering more babies" -- seems to meet those requirements. Unreasonable? Check. (Abortion is legal, remember.) Honest? Yep, there' s no doubt he's a man of strong convictions.

Isn't that nice? Potentially reduce your sentence to less than 10 years in prison by arguing: I unreasonably broke the law, yeah, but I really believed it had to be done. That said, the judge "might limit what the defense can say in opening statements, and indicated it would be difficult to allow testimony indicating Roeder was acting in defense of others because the law requires an 'imminent threat,'" according to the Los Angeles Times. However, the defense team previously requested a list of Tiller's clinic appointments scheduled for both before and after his death -- presumably to argue that there was indeed an "imminent threat."

We'll just have to wait and see when the trial kicks off on Jan. 11.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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