January 12, 2010 in Nation/World

Trial postponed in doctor’s killing

Judge asked to bar manslaughter defense
Ron Sylvester McClatchy

WICHITA, Kan. – Prosecutors asked a judge Monday to prohibit Scott Roeder from using voluntary manslaughter in his defense during his first-degree murder trial in the shooting of George Tiller.

But Roeder’s public defenders say they’re confident the last-minute motion will fail and that the judge will allow them to proceed with their case.

Judge Warren Wilbert set a hearing on the state’s motion for this afternoon, postponing jury selection in the trial for two days. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday.

On Friday, Wilbert said he could see a situation where testimony would require him to give the jury an option of less severe charges than premeditated murder, including involuntary manslaughter.

“We think the judge correctly stated the law on Friday,” said Mark Rudy, one of Roeder’s public defenders. “We don’t think this issue is ripe at this moment.”

Roeder, 51, is charged in the May 31 shooting death of Tiller, one of four doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions when pregnancy threatened the health of the woman. Roeder had claimed he killed Tiller to protect the unborn.

In its motion Monday, the state asked Wilbert to “exclude all references in jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination” and rule any proposed evidence about what is known as the “imperfect self-defense” irrelevant to the murder trial.

Kansas law defines voluntary manslaughter as the “unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force” during an intentional killing.

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