Just because we are still in the midst of jury selection doesn’t mean that there aren’t developments in the Scott Roeder case. Roeder, who is on trial for the murder of Kansas doctor George Tiller, has been filling the media with his attempt to defend his actions as justifiable homicide.
[State District Judge Warren] Wilbert, a Republican who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Washburn University in Topeka, was appointed to the bench in 1995 and faced no opposition the first three times he stood election. The most recent race was a different story: Wilbert won re-election in 2008 by a mere 471 votes out of nearly 166,000 cast.
Kansans for Life’s political action committee endorsed Wilbert in that race, though it did not contribute to his campaign directly. The mainstream anti-abortion group does not espouse violence, and its political arm focuses on lobbying the state Legislature.
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Finance records show that Wilbert paid the group $75 in September 2008 to have his name listed in an ad in its quarterly newsletter, a 6-by-11-inch booklet of 24 pages that included articles such as "Update on Tiller charges" and "Planned Parenthood – a Snake in the Grass!" The judge also spent more than $16,000 on radio spots on seven stations.
The ad in the newsletter took up most of the bottom of page 16. It said: "The Kansans for Life PAC urges you to vote for, work for and pray for the following pro-life candidates."
Anti-abortion advocates, however, point to the judge’s past rulings against Operation Rescue, as well as his refusal to allow Roeader to use the "necessity defense" as signs that Wilbert will not let his feelings on abortion weigh on his handling of the case. According to Lifesite News:
…Wilbert’s judicial record does not appear to paint a picture of a “pro-life” activist judge. According to the Associated Press, in 2005 he dismissed a public records lawsuit filed by Cheryl Sullenger, a policy advisor for the pro-life group Operation Rescue, in which she sought copies of 911 tapes for ambulance runs from Tiller’s abortion facility.
Similarly, Wilbert has more than once denied Roeder’s request to use the so-called "necessity defense," which would argue that Roeder’s action was not a crime because it saved the lives of preborn babies.
The judge has also indicated that he wishes to keep the moral issue of abortion out of the case, as far as possible.
The issue of whether the judge’s potential biases could open the door for a trial that is less about Roeder’s actions and more about abortion itself is a valid concern. Should Roeder be convicted of a lesser charge with as little as a 5-year sentence, some predict that violence against pro-choice doctors and advocates could greatly increase.
Roeder claims he was justified in murdering Dr. Tiller because he believed the slaying would save unborn children. It doesn’t matter if he’s successful in that claim or not. Merely by allowing the voluntary manslaughter argument, I fear that the judge has given a green light to every nut case with a cause.
The majority of women and men in this country are pro-choice. Few people are against sane efforts like more birth control to make abortion less prevalent. Abortion is not pleasant. I’ve never spoken with a woman who wouldn’t have preferred not to have one. But providers, clinics, women who have abortions, people who fund research and advocacy, and those who write and speak favorably about the right to the procedure all support keeping it safe, legal, and available to preserve women’s lives. What’s to stop abortion protesters now from gunning down any of these people if they can get off with a light sentence and forever be seen as martyrs? Isn’t that what all terrorists wish for?
The potential upheaval that an upheld justifiable homicide defense could create could result in violence not just for pro-choice advocates but, possibly rebound onto anti-abortion activists as well if taken to extremes, as writer Jeff Schweitzer does.
With hunting season now open, I could kill anybody I choose on the belief that my act of homicide would save the lives of future targets of my victim’s murderous ways. I make this ridiculous assertion because "defense of another person" is generally accepted as legal justification for killing a person in situations that would otherwise have been murder.
Judge Wilbert said that the jury should consider "…Mr. Roeder’s beliefs, and how he came to form those beliefs." So if I kill an insurance executive, I just have to argue why I believe my actions to be justified, and how I came to those beliefs. More to the point, I can go out and murder any "pro-life" activist on the premise that I am saving the lives of all doctors who perform abortions!
And all of this while we are still in jury selection. Just imagine what the actual trial will bring.
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