Kansas Man Found Guilty Of Murdering Doctor Who Performed Abortions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Jurors swiftly convicted an abortion opponent of murder Friday for shooting to death one of the only doctors to offer late-term abortions in the U.S., a killing the gunman claimed was justified to save the lives of unborn children.

The jury deliberated for just 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder for putting a gun to the forehead of Dr. George Tiller on May 31 and pulling the trigger.

Defense attorney Mark Rudy described his case as helpless and hopeless.

"I've never seen anyone lay himself out as much as Mr. Roeder did," Rudy said after the verdict, referring to his client's confessions.

Roeder faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years when he is sentenced March 9. Prosecutor Nola Foulston said she would pursue a so-called "Hard 50" sentence, which would require Roeder to serve at least 50 years before he can be considered for parole.

Tiller's widow, Jeanne, and the rest of the family quickly exited the courtroom after the verdict. In a statement, Jeanne Tiller said "once again, a Sedgwick County jury has reached a just verdict."

The family said it wanted Tiller to be "remembered for his legacy of service to women, the help he provided for those who needed it and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father and grandfather."

Roeder had confessed publicly before the trial and admitted again on the witness stand that he shot Tiller in the foyer of the Wichita church where the doctor was serving as an usher. He testified he felt the lives of unborn children were in "immediate danger" because of Tiller.

During closing arguments earlier Friday, Rudy urged the jury to reject the murder charge, saying, "no one should be convicted based on his convictions."

Rudy mentioned leaders who stood up for their beliefs, including Martin Luther King Jr. They were "celebrated individuals (who) stood up and made the world a better place."

"They leave their marks based on their words and deeds," Rudy said.

But prosecutor Kim Parker said Roeder is "simply guilty of the crime he has been charged with."

Prosecutor Ann Swegle told jurors to use their "common sense" when deliberating and find Roeder guilty based not only on the state's case but also on Roeder's own testimony in which he described how he killed Tiller in a "planned assassination."

"There could be no other verdict in this case," she said.

Roeder also was convicted of aggravated assault for pointing a gun at two ushers at Tiller's church after the shooting. Wearing a dark suit with a red tie, he sat straightforward and expressionless as the verdict was read, moving his head toward the judge and to the jury as each juror confirmed his or her decision.

Roeder's attorneys were hoping to get a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for Roeder, a defense that would have required them to show that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified.

Tiller's Wichita clinic was the focus of many protests and had been under investigation by a former state district attorney who accused the doctor of skirting Kansas' abortion laws.

Roeder was the sole defense witness after the judge barred testimony from two state prosecutors whom the defense subpoenaed in a bid to show Roeder believed Tiller was performing unlawful abortions and was frustrated charges against the doctor had been dismissed in one case. Jurors in the other case acquitted the doctor.

Roeder testified Thursday that he considered elaborate schemes to stop the doctor, including chopping off his hands, crashing a car into him or sneaking into his home to kill him. Roeder said he went to Reformation Lutheran Church on three other occasions to kill Tiller: once the evening before and once the week before Tiller was shot, and once in 2008, but Tiller was not at the church on those occasions.

But in the end, Roeder told jurors, the easiest way was to walk into Tiller's church, put a gun to the doctor's forehead and pull the trigger.

"Those children were in immediate danger if someone did not stop George Tiller," Roeder told jurors.

But after hearing Roeder testify, District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that his lawyers failed to show that Tiller posed an imminent threat and the jury could not consider a manslaughter verdict.

Prosecutors were careful during the first few days of testimony to avoid the subject of abortion and to focus on the specifics of the shooting. Wilbert said he did not want the trial to become a debate on abortion, but he did allow Roeder to discuss his views on the subject because his attorneys said they were integral to their case.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Jan 31, 2010 at 08:24 AM
    He actually done unborn babies a favor by getting rid of the serial killer "Tiller the baby killer".He murdered more unborn babies than any serial killer has ever killed.This man should be given a medal.
  • by K on Jan 31, 2010 at 04:59 AM
    To the liberals, life is important as long as you're an animal, If you're unborne you're just an inconvinient clump of tissue.
  • by Mom22 on Jan 29, 2010 at 01:30 PM
    To Barlow: There are a lot of people that want children and can't have them. Adoption is a choice, and though I do not agree with what this man did I DO believe that the doctor was murdering children, and that too is wrong. Get real... you get real. This man is no more guilty than that doctor was of murder. Doesn't make it right, but it doesn't change the truth either.
  • by Darren Location: Kill Devil Hills on Jan 29, 2010 at 01:07 PM
    This man should have never killed the doctor, but what I don't understand is that why do you have an abortion doctor serving as an usher in a church of a religion that stands against abortion. It is a bit immoral for the doctor to get so much money off of that stuff, but it's even worse for someone to kill the doctor. That's like this murderer trying to be God or take God's place, which is awful. That should have been left up to God, not man.
  • by US citizen for now Location: Washington on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM
    The family said it wanted Tiller to be "remembered for his legacy of service to women, the help he provided for those who needed it...." Tiller was nothing but a baby killer! If you could ever see a baby being aborted while looking at a Ultrasound Sonography screen, you would see very quickly that abortion is nothing but murdering an innocent baby with feelings & emotions just like we have. The baby balls up twisting & turning in severe pain before their brains & insides are sucked out. What a great choice that is!!!!!!!! This man from Kansas shouldn't have killed the doctor. We could prevent all this crap from happening if America would stand up in regards to human life and how precious it is. Jesus Christ, The Truth, The Way & The Life.
  • by J Location: greenville on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:49 AM
    I tell you, so long as you're not born yet, conservatives care about you. The moment you leave the womb though, screw you, no handouts, on your own kid.
  • by does not make sense on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM
    Why kill another person?

275 E. Arlington Blvd. Greenville, NC 27858 252-439-7777
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 83045522 - witn.com/a?a=83045522
Gray Television, Inc.