IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lawyer: No ‘necessity defense’ for Roeder

The lawyer for the man accused of killing a Kansas abortion provider says there's no such thing as a "necessity defense" in state law, and that is not the strategy the defense plans to present at his trial.
Abortion Shooting
Scott Roeder attends his preliminary hearing in court in Wichita, Kan., on July 28. Roeder confessed to The Associated Press Monday to killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.Jaime Oppenheimer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

An anti-abortion opponent says he's the one who killed a Kansas abortion provider — and did it because it was necessary to save lives. But one of his attorneys says there's no such thing as a "necessity defense" in state law, and that is not the strategy the defense team plans to present at his trial.

Scott Roeder told The Associated Press in a telephone call from jail on Monday that he plans to argue at his trial that he was justified in shooting Dr. George Tiller to protect unborn children.

"We have explored that possibility," public defender Steve Osburn said a day after his client's confession. "That does not seem to be the approach that is viable, nor is it the approach we intend to use."

Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller's death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor's Wichita church. Roeder has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in January.

He told the AP he has no regrets about killing Tiller.

His calls to the AP and the Kansas City Star came on the same day several strident abortion opponents released their "Defensive Action Statement 3rd Edition" that proclaims any force that can be used to defend the life of a "born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child."

Necessity defense not viable
Osburn said he has discussed with Roeder "on numerous occasions" that a necessity defense was not viable, despite what his client was hearing from others. Roeder has said he is looking for an attorney who will present such a defense but cannot afford to hire one.

His former wife said Tuesday that she was in another room when she heard a television news report play an audio clip of his confession to the AP. Lindsey Roeder said she found it surreal to hear her ex-husband's voice.

"Even though you heard other people say, `I saw him do it,' even though I have heard since 1993 how he feels about justifiable homicide in response to abortion, it made it all very real," she said. "It was no longer just something we saw on TV or heard in the papers."

Both sides downplayed the impact Roeder's statements to the media would have on their cases.

"It is what it is. He is his own man and we are going to move forward," said Mark Rudy, Roeder's other public defender.

The defense worked out a plan some time ago on how to proceed with the case, and that plan has not changed, Osburn said. He declined to give specifics on the plan.

"I would highly doubt that the state would attempt to call reporters up to the stand to talk about their conversations with Scott, and I say that because they are not going to want to open this up into arguments about things such as justification, when life begins and all those issues," Rudy said.

"I anticipate that they will try to keep this narrow, to the point and try it as a typical murder case," he said. "Therefore they aren't gonna want to open the door to certain other issues that would undoubtedly come out if the media was put up on the stand."

But Rudy left open the possibility that the defense would subpoena the media.

Asked whether his client's public admission make it harder to defend him, Rudy replied: "It depends on how efficient you are at dodging a subpoena."

Confession's impact
Georgia Cole, spokeswoman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, declined to talk about any specifics of the prosecution's case but said Roeder's confession doesn't have any real effect.

"We will continue to prepare for trial and present our case as in all murder cases," Cole said.

E. Jay Greeno, the attorney who defended Shelley Shannon for shooting and wounding Tiller in 1993, sympathized with the difficulties faced by Roeder's attorneys when representing a client who has a different agenda. Shannon also confessed to the media.

"I respect Shelley Shannon for her conviction," Greeno said. "I don't agree with her methods or her position, but she gave up her liberty for what she believes in and continues to do so."

Dave Leach, an Iowa abortion opponent and longtime friend of Roeder, has been coordinating a public relations campaign to push for a necessity defense in Roeder's case. Leach put together the "Defensive Action Statement 3rd Edition."

Supporters contend Roeder cannot get a true "trial by jury" unless jurors are allowed to consider whether he was justified in killing Tiller to prevent a greater harm. By admitting to the shooting itself, Roeder hopes to focus the trial on that single issue.

The first Defensive Action Statement was written by Paul Hill in 1993 and signed by 29 people in support of Michael Griffin's shooting of Dr. David Gunn, a Florida abortion provider. The next year, Hill killed Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard. A second statement, signed by 28 people, supported those killings. Hill was executed in 2003.

"It is as true now as it was the first time around," Joshua Graff, a Williamsport, Md., abortion opponent wrote to Leach, asking him to add his name to the third edition.