A Sedgwick County district judge Tuesday said Scott Roeder could pursue a defense of voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Warren Wilbert to block Roeder, 51, from building a case that might lead to a lesser charge than first-degree premeditated murder. Roeder is charged with killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller on May 31 at the doctor's church. Roeder has admitted to the shooting but said he killed to protect the unborn.
Kansas law defines voluntary manslaughter as the "honest but unreasonable belief" that the use of force was necessary in defense of another. It's called the imperfect self-defense.
But Wilbert said at a hearing Tuesday afternoon that voluntary manslaughter was a legal instruction given to a jury before it begins deliberations and it wouldn't be proper for him to rule on it before a jury was even seated. Jury selection is set to begin this morning.
"We don't fast-forward," Wilbert said during the hearing. "We don't jump to conclusions, and we don't arrive at the end of the process without a full and complete and hopefully impartial hearing."
Prosecutors said the "imperfect self-defense" required an imminent threat by Tiller, who was not at his clinic ready to perform abortions but in his church serving as an usher when he was shot. The prosecution said the jury should consider only whether the killing was premeditated.
A manslaughter conviction would mean a sentence of four to six years for Roeder, compared to life in prison for first-degree murder.
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