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Today's Top News
US Abortion Doctor's Killer Found Guilty of Murder
Kansas jury rejects plea by Scott Roeder that he killed George Tiller to protect unborn children
A jury in Kansas has rejected a plea by a man who admitted killing an abortion doctor that he acted in defence of the unborn and found him guilty of murder .
The jury took just 37 minutes to convict born-again Christian Scott Roeder for shooting George Tiller, 67, in the forehead as he attended church last May. Roeder, a 51-year-old airport shuttle driver, faces a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
To the dismay of abortion rights activists the judge, Warren Wilbert, permitted a defendant to present a jury with his justification for murder for the first time in US legal history.
However, before the case went to the jury the judge ruled that he would not allow it to consider a verdict of manslaughter or second degree murder because Roeder was not acting in defence of an immediate threat to life and the killing had been premeditated.
"It would be hard for a reasonable fact-finder to find anything other than the defendant formulating his belief and then planning on multiple occasions ... to carry out his intention to [kill] Dr Tiller," the judge said. Roeder did not deny it.
He told the court that he had made up his mind 17 years ago to kill Tiller, who was one of only three doctors in the US to carry out abortions late in a pregnancy.
Roeder said he considered hiding on a roof looking down on Tiller's clinic in Wichita to shoot him with a sniper rifle, or smashing his car into the abortion doctor's vehicle and chopping Tiller's hands off with a sword. But Roeder said he abandoned the latter idea because Tiller would still be able to teach others how to carry out abortions. In the end, Roeder walked up to Tiller at the doctor's Lutheran church and shot him in the head.
Roeder's lawyer told the jury how his client had grown increasingly frustrated over the years by the continued operation of Tiller abortion clinic despite a vigorous campaign against it by anti-abortionists. The clinic was bombed in 1986 and the focus of a mass blockade five years later.