Breaking News in Dr. Tiller’s Murder Trial


January 8, 2010

Statement of Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President of Feminist Majority Foundation on Kansas Judge’s decision to allow evidence in support of a “voluntary manslaughter” verdict in the trial of Scott Roeder for murdering Dr. George Tiller

Today’s perplexing decision is effectively back-door permission for admitted killer Scott Roeder to use a ‘justifiable homicide’ defense that is both un-justifiable and unconscionable.

Allowing an argument that this cold-blooded, premeditated murder could be voluntary manslaughter will embolden anti-abortion extremists and could result in ‘open season’ on doctors across the country.

Kansas Judge Warren Wilbert ruled today that he will allow defense attorneys to present evidence to the jury about Scott Roeder’s beliefs prior to his shooting of Dr. George Tiller in church, which would allow a verdict of ‘voluntary manslaughter,’ defined as an ‘unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.’

At the same time Judge Wilbert denied Roeder the right to use a ‘justifiable homicide’ or ‘necessity’ defense. Rejecting ‘justifiable homicide’ while allowing ‘voluntary manslaughter’ is almost a distinction without a difference, since a verdict of voluntary manslaughter could carry as little as five years of jail time, and even that sentence could be reduced. It is an outrage.

In fact, Judge Wilbert had already rejected Roeder’s lawyers’ request to use the ‘justifiable homicide’ defense, citing a 1993 Kansas Supreme Court case predicting that such a defense would ‘not only lead to chaos but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy.’

Katherine Spillar is the Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and leads its National Clinic Access Project, which is the oldest and largest national clinic defense project in the nation.

MANSLAUGHTER, VOLUNTARY – In order for someone to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter the government must prove that the person killed another person; the person acted in the heat of passion; and heat of passion was caused by adequate provocation.
Heat of passion may be provoked by fear, rage, anger or terror. Provocation, in order to be adequate, must be such as might naturally cause a reasonable person in the passion of the moment to lose self-control and act on impulse and without reflection.