WICHITA, Kan. - A judge is weighing a crucial legal question in the case of a man who confessed to killing one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers: Can the man argue at his trial that the slaying was justified to save the lives of unborn children?
Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man, is charged with one count of premeditated, first-degree murder in Dr. George Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers during a melee in the foyer of the doctor’s Wichita church.
District Judge Warren Wilbert has yet to rule on a slew of court filings that will set the course for a trial set to begin Jan. 11, and will consider some of them in court today. But the documents offer a glimpse at the legal strategies in a case played out amid the debate over abortion.
Since the killing, Roeder has confessed to reporters that he shot Tiller, while his antiabortion allies have urged Roeder to present a so-called necessity defense in hope that an acquittal could turn the larger debate over abortion in their favor.
“I chose this action I am accused of because of the necessity defense,’’ Roeder said in November. “I want to make sure that the focus is, of course, . . . on the preborn children and the necessity to defend them.’’
If the judge rejects that defense, Roeder and his lawyers would not be allowed to make that argument to jurors at his trial. Similar efforts to use such a strategy in cases involving abortion-related violence have generally been banned, perhaps most relevantly at the 1993 trial of an Oregon woman accused of shooting and wounding Tiller.
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Roeder, who has pleaded not guilty, has said he has no regrets about killing Tiller.
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