When Does Murder Become Manslaughter?


When does a charge of murder get reduced to a charge of manslaughter?  Possibly, when the murder victim is a doctor who does abortions.

Scott Roeder is on trial in Wichita KS for the murder of Dr. George Tiller on May 31, 2009.  Roeder, an anti-abortion activist for many years well known around Kansas, admitted to authorities that he killed Dr. Tiller by barging into the church where George was ushering, and shooting him.  George died immediately; Roeder fled, and was caught within a day.

The drama playing out in Wichita is not whether Roeder will be found guilty, but what he will be found guilty of.  He’s charged with murder by the state of Kansas.  However, his defense team has argued to the judge that they should be allowed to present evidence that Roeder was motivated by his anti-abortion convictions, and therefore should not be convicted of murder.

Jeff Schweitzer in Cold Blooded-Murder: An Angel Made Me Do it on Huffington Post:

Roeder claims that he gunned down Tiller at Sunday church services on May 31, 2009, in order to “save the lives of preborn children.” Based on this claim, Roeder intends to invoke the “necessity defense” predicated on the idea of “justifiable homicide.” If presiding judge Warren Wilbert accepts this defense strategy, and he appears to be leaning that way, he will give jurors the option of convicting Roeder not of premeditated murder but instead of voluntary manslaughter. That lesser crime is defined as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force” under Kansas statute. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter Roeder could be out of prison in five years.

We are investigating the report that Judge Wilbert was endorsed for his judgeship by anti-abortion groups in Kansas.  If he allows Roeder’s team to present testimony from an array of anti-abortion politicians and activists, it would be an extraordinary departure.

That would not necessarily convince a jury that Roeder was justified in killing Dr. Tiller.  But consider this: yesterday the judge shut out the media from jury selection, saying that abortion is such a controversial topic that jurors would fear to state their thinking on it publicly.

I think it is very relevant why Roeder killed George Tiller.  We’ve made the point repeatedly that he was influenced directly by Operation Rescue who relentlessly targeted George for over a decade, and by the Kansas politicians who harassed George with lawsuits and even criminal charges, unsuccessfully. (George always prevailed in court).  So what if Roeder does actually believe he’s saving fetal life by having killed George Tiller?  He killed a living human being, and that’s murder.

I, along with 5 other anti-war activists, will be going on trial this spring on misdemeanor charges of “disorderly conduct” for protesting in Philadelphia at the entrance to the Army Experience Center.  If we had been outside the doors cheering the Army’s recruitment efforts, we would have been welcomed, as the Army welcomed the pro-war bikers they allowed to jeer us. But because our message was opposition to the war and the recruitment of kids with video games, we were arrested.  It’s relevant to our defense that we were arrested for the content of our non-violent protest message.

We will argue that we should be allowed to mention why we were protesting.  Anti-war protesters Emma Kaplan and Patty Imani may be allowed to speak of their reasons for protesting at their trial on January 25 in Tacoma WA, where anti-war protesters were spied on by the military.

But what happens to the Roeder prosecution should be followed by everyone who cares about the safety of abortion doctors, and the humanity of women seeking abortion and birth control.

The National Organization for Women in Wichita will hold a vigil on Friday night, January 22, for abortion rights.  For the 36 previous anniversaries, of the Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal, George was in Wichita, providing abortions.

Will the anti-abortion lunatics already be celebrating by the end of next week because in Kansas, you might be able to carry out a political assassination, and get made into a hero?

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I cannot resist urging you to view The Onion’s insightful piece this week on the new abortion laws, designed only to help women through difficult times…

New Law Requires Women To Name Baby, Paint Nursery Before Getting Abortion

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  1. #1 by Lina on January 15, 2010 - 11:01 am

    This piece was made “Editor’s Pick” on Open Salon, rightly so!

    http://open.salon.com/blog/debras/2010/01/14/when_does_murder_become_manslaughter

  2. #2 by Scott on January 15, 2010 - 4:44 pm

    If Roeder is able to be charged only with manslaughter, even if he’s found guilty, that is in fact getting away with murder.

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