The shooting death of abortionist Dr. George Tiller is again making headlines after reports that Kansas' highest court had expressed skepticism over the convicted killer's request for a new trial, claiming he believed his actions would save the lives of unborn children.
In May of 2009, 55-year-old Scott Roeder shot and killed Tiller, a late-term abortionist, while the doctor was attending services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan. Roeder was subsequently found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault in January 2010, and is currently serving a sentence of at least 50 years in prison.
Since the ruling, Roeder's appellate defender, Rachel Pickering, argued that her client should get a new trial because jurors weren't allowed to consider whether they could convict him of voluntary manslaughter, rather than first-degree murder, the Associated Press reported
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The lesser crime covers killings that occur when people have a sincere but unreasonable belief that harm to themselves or others is imminent and justifies deadly force, the AP noted.
"We're talking about his view that this doctor is performing illegal abortions resulting in the deaths of others," Pickering told the court, noting that her client had strong pro-life beliefs that equated Tiller's abortions with murder.
At the time of his death, the 67-year-old Tiller, who had been performing abortions for more than 35 years, was one of only a handful of physicians that carried out late term abortions, which occur after the 20th week of pregnancy when the fetus can survive outside the uterus.
During his career, Tiller reportedly destroyed approximately 60,000 fetuses, having an estimated income of more than $1 million a year, the Washington Times reported
In 2003 alone, Tiller is said to have performed more than 250 late term abortions, the AP reported.
During Roeder's trial, Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert allowed the confessed killer to testify to his beliefs, but ultimately refused to let the jury consider the lesser charge after hearing all the trial evidence, the AP noted.
The justices reportedly questioned Pickering for more than an hour on Wednesday, twice the amount of time set aside for her arguments.
Through his attorney, Roeder claimed that he had been denied a fair trial due to a combined series of errors that prejudiced the jury against him, including the court's denial to change venue, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported
The justices did not say when they would rule on the appeal request.
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