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Murder suspect confesses to killing abortion provider

Scott Roeder, when asked if he killed Dr. George Tiller, replies: 'That is correct.' But he says the killing was justified because 'preborn children' were in danger.

November 10, 2009|McClatchy Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, MO. — The man accused of killing a Wichita abortion provider confessed in an interview Monday, saying he had no regrets because "preborn children were in imminent danger."

In a 20-minute phone call from the Sedgwick County Jail in Kansas, Scott Roeder said he believed shooting Dr. George Tiller saved lives.

"I've already been told that there's at least four women that have changed their minds and are going to have their babies," Roeder said. "Even if it was one woman, then who would have a regret for a motive of protecting preborn children? That was the motive."

Roeder is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Tiller, one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. He was shot to death in his Wichita church on May 31.

When asked specifically if he killed Tiller, Roeder replied, "That is correct."

But Roeder, 51, said that he didn't consider the act murder and that he had no intention of changing his plea to guilty.

"There is a distinction between killing and murdering," he said. "I don't like the accusation of murder whatsoever, because when you protect innocent life, that's not murder."

Lee Thompson, an attorney for the Tiller family, said Roeder's assertion that killing Tiller was justifiable was ludicrous.

"Any pretense that it's justifiable is legally wrong and reflective of the extremism that seems to characterize this act, which is nothing more than an act of premeditated violence," Thompson said.

Roeder said he planned to use a so-called necessity defense at his trial, arguing that he killed Tiller to prevent a greater harm. Other antiabortion activists charged with violent acts have tried to use such a defense, with little success. Roeder's trial is set for Jan. 11.

Roeder's public defender expressed surprise at his client's confession. "I'm not sure if we've had a parting of our thoughts here or what," Steve Osburn said. "We'll have to talk with Scott and see what's going on in his head, I guess."

Roeder said he planned to retain his public defenders, but added that he also was looking at other lawyers.

In September, Roeder met with Georgia lawyer Michael Hirsh, who is considered an authority on the justifiable homicide defense.

Hirsh declined comment Monday. But in a recent interview, he said: "The fact is that there is a mountain of scientific evidence that shows the humanity of an unborn child. And Dr. Tiller was notorious, by his own designs, for specializing in late-term abortions. So there's no denying by rational people the humanity of an unborn child, and the only difference in the unborn child and you and me is size, age and location."

Roeder's confession came the same day that a group of abortion foes, including 1996 Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph and others who've been jailed for abortion clinic violence, released a statement declaring Tiller's killing was justifiable.

Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said Roeder's confession and the statement should raise a red flag with authorities.

"This clearly shows his connection to the most extremist branch of the antiabortion movement, which has long advocated this defense, that somehow the murder of doctors is justifiable," Spillar said. She urged authorities to investigate those connections.

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