Courts & Crime

Scott Roeder's trial starts on anniversary of Roe v. Wade

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that gave constitutional protection for abortions, prosecutors this morning will begin presenting evidence that Scott Roeder killed George Tiller because he performed them.

A jury of eight men and six women were seated Thursday afternoon and will begin hearing evidence this morning — 37 years to the day after the high court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert plans to swear in the jury, most of whom are over the age of 40.

Roeder, 51, is charged with the May 31 killing of Tiller, one of the few physicians in the country who performed late-term abortions.

Over the past week, lawyers narrowed the jury pool to 47 in individual questioning of jurors privately, before opening the jury selection to the public briefly on Thursday.

"We talked to you about private issues, things maybe you wouldn't discuss with your own spouse," public defender Mark Rudy told the remaining jurors.

Prosecutor Kim Parker asked jurors whether they had any religious beliefs or philosophies that would prevent them from convicting Roeder of first-degree murder if the evidence warrants it.

"That is probably the most important question we can ask," Parker said.

Row by row, each juror said, "No."

Roeder also stands accused of aggravated assault involving two members of Tiller's church, where the doctor was shot just as Sunday services began.

Parker also asked jurors whether they could decide the case without outside distractions, either from news reports or questions from friends, family or others. The trial is attracting national attention.

"Someone came up to me last night and asked, 'What case are you on?' " one woman answered. "I just told them I was on a criminal case. I just walked away, and that's what I would do."

Parker also asked whether people should be held responsible for their voluntary actions.

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