Scott Roeder says he killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller to protect… (Travis Heying / Wichita…)
Wichita, Kan. — A district judge refused Tuesday to prevent the man charged with killing abortion provider George Tiller from pursuing a defense of voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Warren Wilbert to block Scott Roeder, 51, from building a case that might lead to a lesser charge than first-degree premeditated murder.
Roeder has admitted shooting Tiller on May 31, but said he killed him to protect the unborn. Kansas law defines voluntary manslaughter as the "honest but unreasonable belief" that the use of force was necessary in defense of another. It's called the imperfect self-defense.
Prosecutor Kim Parker asked Wilbert to prohibit the defense from remarking on Roeder's beliefs about protecting the unborn. Mark Rudy, arguing for the defense, said he was confident case law would allow his team to push for voluntary manslaughter.
At a hearing on the issue Tuesday, the judge said voluntary manslaughter was a legal instruction given to a jury before it begins deliberations and that it wouldn't be proper for him to rule on it before a jury was even seated.
"We don't fast-forward," Wilbert said. "We don't jump to conclusions, and we don't arrive at the end of the process without a full and complete -- and hopefully impartial -- hearing."
The judge on Friday had said that he could envision a scenario in which Roeder tried to make a case on the less severe charge. A manslaughter conviction would mean a sentence of four to six years, compared with life in prison for first-degree murder.
Wilbert said he would not allow opinions on abortion beyond what was going through Roeder's mind at the time of the shooting.
Jury selection was set to begin this morning.