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Scott Roeder Killed George Tiller. But is it Murder or Manslaughter?

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  • Scott Roeder Killed George Tiller. But is it Murder or Manslaughter?

    So what’s left to decide?

    It’s a question that many are likely asking in regard to the Scott Roeder situation. Roeder, on trial for allegedly murdering doctor George Tiller, on Thursday essentially obviated our need to use the word “allegedly” when he said in court that, yes, he approached Tiller in church last May and shot him in the forehead.

    The WSJ’s Stephanie Simon describes it this way:
    Speaking in a measured voice, Mr. Roeder told the jury he considered abortion to be murder. “It is not man’s job to take life,” he said. A moment later, Mr. Roeder amended that slightly: “It is never up to man to take life. Only in the case of defense of self or defense of others.”

    Fascinating, eh? Roeder’s lawyers are seeking to prove Tiller out of an honest, even if unreasonable, belief that he had no other option but to use deadly force to protect others—in this case, fetuses—from an imminent threat.

    Under Kansas law, that could fit the definition of “voluntary manslaughter,” a less serious charge than first-degree murder. Click here for a recent story on the manslaughter/murder issue by Emily Bazelon, writing in Slate.

    Will it fly? It’s far from a slam dunk. Judge Warren Wilbert ruled Thursday evening he would not let the jury consider lesser charges because Tiller posed no imminent danger to anyone as he stood in church that Sunday morning. The judge also pointed out that abortion was legal, and said there was no evidence that Tiller was in any way breaking the law in his practice.

    In any event, it sounded like a pretty riveting day in the courtroom. On cross-examination, Roeder acknowledged he had made up his mind as early as 1993 to kill Tiller. Roeder said he considered various plans, including hiding on a roof opposite Tiller’s clinic to pick him off with a sniper rifle, crashing his car into Tiller’s, or trying to get close enough to the physician to chop off his hands with a sword.

    He said he settled on shooting Tiller at close range in his church. He visited the church several times, first to scope it out and then to find Tiller, bringing along both his Bible and his handgun.

    Photo: AP

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