WICHITA, Kan. – A man who says he killed prominent Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller to protect unborn children has been convicted of murdering the doctor.
A jury deliberated for 37 minutes Friday before finding Scott Roeder guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder. The 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Roeder testified that he shot Tiller in the head May 31 in the foyer of Tiller's church in Wichita because he believed Tiller posed an "immediate danger" to unborn children.
His attorneys were hoping to get a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for Roeder, but the judge ruled that the jury could not consider such a verdict.
The judge's ruling will no doubt be the basis of an appeal. The defense tried to argue that the jury should be allowed to consider manslaughter, based on the Kansas statute which permits a killing when the killer "is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent it appears to such person and such person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend such person or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force."
The only problem with that is that the last two word "unlawful force". Abortion is not unlawful. And that's probably why the judge in the Roeder case didn't allow the jury to consider manslaugher. Roeder could use force, even deadly force, to prevent somone else's unlawful acts, but not their lawful act.
It makes perfect sense from a public policy standpoint as well. If we allowed people to decide on their own volition when a murder is "justified" or not, then we basically make murder statutes into a dead letter law. I would venture to say that many murders are justified in the eyes of the murderer. But a criminal law system cannot work that way.