Courts & Crime

Portions of Roeder trial jury selection will be open

After news outlets, including The Wichita Eagle, petitioned the Kansas Supreme Court, a judge agreed Wednesday to release a jury questionnaire and open portions of jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of Scott Roeder.

Judge Warren Wilbert, though, closed the hearing he held on whether to open court documents and proceedings, despite the objections of news organizations that had taken the legal action.

Roeder, 51, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller last May, a case that has drawn national attention. Roeder would face life in prison if convicted.

Attorney Lyndon Vix had petitioned the state Supreme Court on behalf of The Eagle, the Kansas City Star, the Associated Press and KWCH, Channel 12. Tuesday night, the high court reversed Wilbert's ruling to close the proceedings and seal the questionnaire.

After the closed hearing, Vix said Wilbert had agreed to open parts of jury selection to the public but that individual jurors will first be questioned in private about "sensitive personal issues."

Lawyers began questioning jurors privately Wednesday afternoon, talking to four of the 61 jurors called to the courtroom. Jury selection enters its second day, and first full day, at 9 a.m. today.

The focus of the individual questioning will involve personal beliefs about abortion, the judge and the lawyers have said, and whether potential jurors can set those aside to listen to evidence in the murder trial from both sides.

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