Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Judge Suggests Roeder's Anti-Abortion Beliefs Might Lessen Charges

The trial of Scott Roeder (left), charged with killing Dr. George Tiller, who provided late-term abortions, has been delayed as lawyers disagree over the extent to which his legal team should be allowed to use opposition to abortion as a defense:

Prosecutors in the case against Scott Roeder, an abortion opponent charged with shooting Dr. George R. Tiller at his Wichita church last May, asked a judge to bar Mr. Roeder’s public defenders from portraying the crime as voluntary manslaughter as opposed to first-degree murder.

Mr. Roeder, of Kansas City, Mo., has acknowledged in legal documents to having carried out the shooting, but he has pressed to be allowed to show that he believed he was saving unborn children in the process.

The judge made intimations that are simply astounding:

Late last week, Judge Warren Wilbert of Sedgwick County District Court in Wichita suggested he might consider allowing evidence that could support a theory of voluntary manslaughter, which can be defined, under state law, as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”

Voluntary manslaughter carries a much shorter sentence than life imprisonment, a fact that is not lost on pro-choice groups:

Advocates of abortion rights said that even allowing the argument to be presented in court was appalling and dangerous. In a statement, Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said allowing such a defense would “embolden anti-abortion extremists and could result in ‘open season’ on doctors across the country.”

If this defense is allowed, can it also be applied to those who carry out mass terrorism? Suppose a terrorist had an "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified" a bombing? Don't all terrorists, in fact, have that belief? Why should Roeder be permitted a defense which would ordinarily–and rightly–provoke outrage?


neil fabricant said...

By this reasoning one could plan and kill one's wife under the good faith belief that she was about to get an abortion and this would warrant a dramatically reduced charge. Or, for that matter, kidnap a pregnant stranger at the clinic and hold her for nine months. Maybe a charge of unlawful imprisonment. Vegetarians Unite!

Jeff Tone said...

You're right, Neil. There are all sorts of absurd ways to apply this absurd logic.

I'm not sure what this has to do with vegetarianism, however.