Commentary: Transparency in Roeder case build trust

Eight months after abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in a Wichita church, the world is watching the community again to see what becomes of alleged killer Scott Roeder in Sedgwick County District Court.

With the views about both the accused and the victim as passionate as those about abortion itself, people want to know: Will the trial be fair and the jury impartial? Will the legality and even the morality of abortion end up on trial? Will what Tiller did inform the judgment of what Roeder allegedly did?

Concerns about the case were fueled by pretrial legal wrangling over whether the defense could argue that Roeder believed killing Tiller was necessary to save unborn children and whether a jury might have the option of convicting Roeder of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Onlookers from across the globe and ideological spectrum have reacted strongly to Judge Warren Wilbert's decision not to rule out a lesser charge up-front, with pro-choice activists seeing it as a green light for more murders of abortion providers and a step toward giving a fetus the legal rights of a child or adult.

But Wilbert said in court Tuesday that voluntary manslaughter was a legal instruction given to a jury before it begins deliberations and that it wouldn't be proper for him to rule on it now. "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," the judge said.

The surest way to foster confidence in the process and outcome is to let people see for themselves, though. A closed door invites doubts.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.