Prosecutors in Roeder case oppose 'imperfect self-defense' argument

The Wichita EagleJanuary 12, 2010 

Prosecutors today will make a final attempt to stop Scott Roeder from telling a jury he killed Wichita abortion provider George Tiller in defense of the unborn.

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. today on the state's arguments that Roeder should be prohibited from using voluntary manslaughter as his defense while on trial for first-degree premeditated murder.

The motion filed Monday pushed the beginning of jury selection back two days.

Roeder's public defenders say they're confident the last-minute motion will fail and the judge will allow them to proceed with their case. Public defender Mark Rudy said he expects to file his team's legal response this morning.

In a hearing Friday, Wilbert said he envisioned testimony that would require him to give the jury an option of less severe charges than premeditated murder, including voluntary manslaughter.

"We think the judge correctly stated the law on Friday," said Rudy, one of Roeder's public defenders.

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

Kansas law defines voluntary manslaughter as the "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force" during an intentional killing. This is known in legal circles as an imperfect self-defense.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kim Parker has asked Wilbert to "exclude all references in jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination" and rule any proposed evidence about "imperfect self-defense" irrelevant to the murder trial.

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