January 29, 2010
Roeder Convicted of Murdering Abortion Doctor
The man who shot George Tiller at his church faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Scott Roeder was found guilty today of first-degree murder for shooting abortion doctor George Tiller.
The jury also convicted Roeder on counts of aggravated assault for threatening two witnesses with a gun as they chased him after the shooting.
Roeder testified that he shot Tiller, who was one of the few doctors in the United States that would perform late-term abortions, on May 31, 2009, at his church in Kansas.
Tiller was serving as an usher at the Reformation Lutheran Church where he was handing out bulletins to people going into the sanctuary before he was shot. Pro-life groups condemned the shooting.
Roeder's public defender argued that Roeder's faith and opposition to abortion compelled him to shoot Tiller, according to The New York Times. He also compared Roeder to Martin Luther King Jr., according to the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Rudy asked the jurors to show courage in their deliberations and told them: "No defendant can be convicted based on his convictions."
But Judge Warren Wilbert ruled Thursday evening that the jury could not consider lesser charges; its only choice was to convict or acquit on first-degree murder. Mr. Roeder's lawyers had argued that their client's actions might better be described as "voluntary manslaughter," which Kansas law defines as using deadly force in the honest, even if unreasonable, belief that doing so is necessary to protect others from an imminent threat of unlawful violence.
Judge Wilbert said that did not apply in this case because Dr. Tiller posed no imminent threat to anyone as he stood in his church and because his abortion practice was legal.
Roeder faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, which will be set on March 9.