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 .
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.
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.
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.
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
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.