Jury Convicts Roeder in Abortion Doctor Killing

The Kansas jury in the Scott Roder murder trial deliberated 40 minutes before returning a guilty verdict.

The jury found Scott Roeder, 51, guilty of gunning down Dr. George Tiller, who operated a clinic in Wichita where late-term abortions were performed. Roeder, 51, faces life in prison when he is sentenced on March 9.

Roeder admitted shooting Tiller in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church as Sunday services began. He testified in his defense Thursday that he believed he had to kill Tiller to save the lives of unborn babies. He said he had no regrets.

So much for that defense, which was meant as much for the judge as the jury. He was hoping it would get him an instruction on the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, and a 5 year sentence. It didn't.

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    Good. (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 11:29:39 AM EST
    Like MT said, this doesn't bring Dr. Tiller back, but it does seem like some justice is served.  

    It's encouraging that can happen on this issue in Kansas.  Maybe there is hope afterall.

    Thanks, Wichita! (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Blue Jean on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 11:31:10 AM EST
    This is quite a relief.

    May doctor Tiller's family (5.00 / 6) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 11:31:29 AM EST
    and friends and patients know inner peace.  May the women and families who will need him in some of the most horrible times of their lives find that help at the hands of another who is kind and healing.

    I would imagine clients like Roeder are (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Anne on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 11:37:06 AM EST
    very difficult to defend.

    From the link you cited:

    Roeder's defense team did not dispute much of the factual evidence. Roeder testified that he chose to target Tiller at church because it presented the best "window of opportunity" to attack Tiller, who traveled in an armored vehicle and whose clinic was a "fortress."

    He admitted bringing the pistol with him to Lutheran Reformation on May 24 with the intention of shooting Tiller, but the physician did not attend services that day. So, Roeder testified, he returned the following week.

    "Do you feel as though you've successfully completed your mission?" Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston asked Roeder on Thursday.

    "He's been stopped," Roeder answered.

    I also read that Tiller considered somehow cutting off Tiller's hands, but rejected that idea because he figured Tiller would still be able to teach other doctors how to "kill babies."

    [One note: I think you meant to reference "voluntary" manslaughter as the lesser charge the defense wanted the jury to be able to consider, not "involuntary."]

    "Chilling" is the best word I can come up with to describe the feeling of Roeder so calmly and clearly stating his reasons for killing Tiller...

    IIrc, they showed him (none / 0) (#6)
    by nycstray on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:06:40 PM EST
    discussing the hands on the news. I felt horrible for the Tiller family and friends in the courtroom when this guy was on the stand. "Chilling" is a good description.

    The hatred and violent demeanor from some of (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Angel on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:14:47 PM EST
    those in the anti-choice movement is sickening and quite scary.  I wish this verdict would send a message to the others but I really doubt that it will.  Instead, it will probably embolden some of them to try to take Roeder's place and crown themselves the new king of the doctor killers.

    They are sick (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:32:23 PM EST
    But obviously (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by call me Ishmael on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:54:19 PM EST
    Roeder would never have consented to that.  What he wanted in the trial was for the jury to assert that his actions were rational.  He would have defeated the politics of his own defense.  

    Was this comment (#18) (none / 0) (#21)
    by Peter G on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 02:01:22 PM EST
    intended as a reply to #12? Easier to follow discussion if you hit "reply to this"

    Jeralyn, "ABORTION DOCTOR"? (5.00 / 4) (#23)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 03:16:04 PM EST
    I deeply appreciate your commitment to covering this story from start to finish. Buy, why, oh why, oh why do you persist in diminishing Dr. George Tiller by referring to him in the same terms that are used by his assassin, Scott Roder, and the whole extremist anti-choice movement?

    Numerous commenters, including BTD, have objected to your previous use of that reductive, ignoble "Abortion Doctor" label. Back on 7/29/09, Peter G offered a much more accurate, and non-prejudicial description:

    [Dr. Tiller was] an ob-gyn who specialized in reproductive health services, including late-term abortions when needed.

    Words matter; even more so in the form of headlines where a few words encapsulate and frame an entire event. In that regard, your headline today is particularly problematic: Jury Convicts Roeder in Abortion Doctor Killing.

    Really. Roeder, a convicted murderer, is not called a "murderer" or a "killer". He has the distinction of being called by his given name. I can live with that. But Dr. Tiller is relegated to being some anonymous "Abortion Doctor" and thereby afforded no more dignity than a back-alley hack.

    If it's too wordy to include both the name of the perpetrator and the name of the victim, here's an alternative: Jury Convicts Man Who Killed Dr. Tiller.

    That being said, may Dr. Tiller rest in peace and his family take comfort in seeing justice prevail.

    headlines are not PC (none / 0) (#29)
    by diogenes on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 07:33:34 PM EST
    Headlines are meant to inform.  People who skip over a headline about "Dr. Tiller" (who's that?) all know that an abortion doctor was killed and would read about what happened in that case.
    An abortion doctor, or abortionist, is a person who performs many abortions.  People who don't like such labels perhaps are trying to hide what is going on; if abortions are all legal and moral, then what's the problem here?

    i agree foxholeatheist, (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 04:15:01 PM EST
    dr. tiller provided more than just abortion services to women. to focus solely on that single area is allowing the anti-choicers to command the script, and does a disservice to dr. tiller's memory.

    i'm surprised it took 40 minutes, did they get served lunch? mr. roeder is a psychopath, who was convicted not for his convictions (as his attorney tried to say in closing), but for his actions, actions he freely admitted to.

    i'm glad the state didn't go for the death penalty, let mr. roeder rot in jail for the rest of his life. it'll be more cost efficient too.

    Great news (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by ricosuave on Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 12:41:26 AM EST
    But I still don't understand how a case like this could possibly be prosecuted in a civilian court.

    Tried unsuccessfuly to locate (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 11:54:01 AM EST
    Kansas state statutes re punishment for first degree murder and criteria for seeking capital punishment. One news article says 25-to life w/possibility of parole is the mandatory sentence here.  Amazing if Kansas has more liberal criminal code than CA.  

    This was not a capital trial (5.00 / 5) (#14)
    by Peter G on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:32:06 PM EST
    Death penalty eligibility has to be alleged by the prosecution before trial, not after conviction. It requires a substantial claim by the state that the murder comes within a subcategory of especially aggravated homicides  -- defined in advance by the state legislature -- that meaningfully separates out the "worst of the worst."  (Some examples could be torture-killings, multiple victims, prior conviction for homicide, etc.) If death is on the table, it affects, among other things, the way the jury is selected (topic for another day).  In this case, even if a claim could be made that this murder potentially qualified under Kansas law as capital, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Dr. Tiller's family requested that the prosecutor not seek the death penalty.  Given his fierce and fearless commitment to women's rights, it is plausible to guess that Dr. Tiller (and perhaps his family as well) were also absolutely opposed to the death penalty on civil libertarian, religious and/or humanitarian grounds.

    Don't make him a martyr (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by MKS on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 01:02:20 PM EST
    Let him sit in prison....

    Peter G, does assassination constitute (none / 0) (#24)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 03:28:19 PM EST
    a form of aggravated homicide?
    prosecutor Ann Swengel said in her closing argument. "He carried out a planned assassination, and there can be no other verdict in this case ... other than guilty."

    FWIW, I deplore the death penalty in any and all cases.


    Nope (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by Peter G on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 09:19:16 PM EST
    See comment #17.  From the document linked there, here's the list of seven statutory aggravators in current Kansas law:
    "Kansas' 1994 death penalty law provided the option of a death sentence for intentional,
    premeditated murders that contain one or more of these seven factors:
    • kidnaping or aggravated kidnaping for ransom;
    • contract murder;
    • murder of any person by an inmate in a correctional facility;
    • murder of a victim of rape, criminal sodomy, or aggravated criminal sodomy in the attempt to commit or the commission of, subsequent to the crime;
    • murder of a law enforcement officer;
    • murder of more than one person during the same act, or in two or more acts connected as part of a common scheme;
    • murder of a child under the age of 14 in the commission of kidnaping when the kidnaping is done with the intent to commit an unlawful sex offense upon or with the child, or with the intent that the child commit or submit to a sex offense."
    An "assassination" -- presumably meaning (more or less) the premeditated, targeted murder of an individual on account of that person's political position or past notorious actions -- is not one of them.  Not that it necessarily couldn't be, if the state legislature enacted it.  (It would have to be defined so as not to be unduly vague, or unduly overbroad.) In Pennsylvania, the Legislature keeps adding more and more aggravators to our statutory list; there are now 18 or so, none of them equivalent to "assassination," though.  Good to see Kansas's list is so short.

    California had all kinds of (none / 0) (#7)
    by MKS on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:12:08 PM EST
    ballot initiatives on crime--and of course the three strikes laws....

    We're not Texas but it is not a permissive state, either.


    What is the criteria for capital punishment (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:15:46 PM EST
    in Kansas?

    Kansas (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:54:10 PM EST
    has only 10 (i think) on death row and hasn't executed a prisoner since 1965, seven years prior to Furman vs Georgia.

    If you like to read Supreme Court decisions, here is the SCOTUS upholding capital punishment in Kansas 5-4. Kansas v. Marsh

    And here are your guidelines Kansas Death Penalty Guide


    They Aren't Going For the Death Penalty (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Blue Jean on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 01:32:28 PM EST
    The prosecution already took that off the table.  Instead, they're going to ask for a hard fifty i.e. fifty years in prison without parole.  That would mean Roeder never walks free again--unless he lives to 101.

    Here's some links (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:17:30 PM EST
    Thanks. As to first link, definitely (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:24:35 PM EST
    could prove up stalking.  

    Hmmmm (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:28:38 PM EST
    From the UK Guardian last year:

    Under Kansas law, the death penalty can be carried out only for the killing of a police or jail official, more than one person, someone kidnapped for ransom, or during a rape.

    Jayhawkers and bushwhackers, Batman! (none / 0) (#12)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:28:36 PM EST
    I picture this guy coming out of the joint in a decade or so with a full-length Cape Fear John Brown tat down his back (scales of justice in one hand, fetus in the other)

    I would've had to have gone with the insanity defense. With religious fanaticism defined as a form of insanity.

    I would have like to have seen that - (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ruffian on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 12:44:08 PM EST
    a defense based on religious fanaticism defined as a form of insanity, in a religious state such as Kansas. Not sure it would have worked, but would have made for an interesting argument.

    So, he faces life... (none / 0) (#22)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 02:56:07 PM EST
    ...for the murder, but does he get any additional time for the two counts of aggrevated assault?  Or would that be served concurrently?  

    Do the two additional counts change possible parole?

    I have appreciated (none / 0) (#25)
    by Lil on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 04:14:39 PM EST
    so many of the comments on this today and wholeheartedly agree with them.  So because of the risk of sounding redundant, I won't entierly express my thoughts about this. I do have a question though. I was surprised at what seemed to be a quick trial. I was surprised the trial started; I thought it would take another year. As a non lawyer am I naive in thinking this was quick? Most high profile trials I am aware of take so much longer to get going. Just curious why this 1 seemed quicker.