Anti-Abortion Shooter Cannot Claim “Necessity Defense”

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Wichita, KS—The anti-abortion activist who shot a doctor to death last spring cannot use a “necessity defense” during his trial, a judge has rules.

Scott Roeder, 51, has admitted that he gunned down Dr. George Tiller, the head of a women’s clinic and one of the few doctors in the United States who performed late-term abortions. Roeder is charged with one count of first-degree murder, and is set to stand trial in January.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Roeder announced that he was planning to use a necessity defense by claiming that the shooting of Tiller was justified.

A necessity defense is used by a defendant who believes their unlawful action was warranted and justified because it would have been more beneficial to society at large to break the law than to follow it.

“Because of the fact pre-born children’s lives were in imminent danger, this was the action I chose,” said Roeder. This comment and other spurred the prosecutors in the case to ask Sedgwick County Judge Warren Wilbert to bar this defense.

Wilbert did so, saying that the Kansas Supreme Court had already ruled that the necessity defense cannot be used if the so-called harm which the defendant is attempting to avoid or prevent through his criminal actions is a constitutional and legal activity, including abortion. Citing this precedent, Wilbert ruled that the necessity defense is not a viable defense in other Kansas cases surrounding abortion, or in the Roeder case.

Although defense attorneys have not yet made a decision regarding the approach to defense that they will take, Roeder filed a motion on his own behalf outlining the necessity defense.

Previous anti-abortion activists who have stood trial for attacks on clinics and doctors have also attempted to use this defense, but none have been able to successfully use it.

Prosecutors in the Roeder case have also requested that Wilbert prevent defense attorneys from calling the killing justified because Roeder used force in the defense of another or others—the unborn. Wilbert did not yet rule on this matter, stating that he wanted to see what evidence defense attorneys would mount to support that assertion.

Roeder, who shot Tiller at the door of his church, is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two church members at the time of the shooting.

 

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