Courtroom Confession Rules Out Lesser Charge in Abortion Doc Death

Scott Roeder no longer eligible for manslaughter after admission on stand.

ByABC News via logo
January 29, 2010, 7:28 AM

Jan. 29, 2010— -- Scott Roeder's bluntly told the court he had no regrets about killing the Kansas abortion doctor, arguing that he took a life to protect other lives.

Roeder's frankness did not win him the possibility of lighter sentence as he had hoped. Instead, it prompted a swift reaction from the trial judge who told the jury they would not be allowed to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.

In Kansas, a murder charge can be downgraded to manslaughter if the defense can prove the suspect had an unreasonable yet honest belief that killing another person was justified.

"If I didn't do it, those babies would die the next day," Roeder testified, describing how he shot and killed Dr. George Tiller in a church vestibule.

According to the Kansas City Star, closing arguments are expected to begin today with jury deliberations to follow.

Judge Warren Wilbert quickly squashed any notion Thursday of a lesser charge and told the jury their choices were first-degree murder or acquittal. He also ruled out any possibility of a second-degree murder conviction, noting that Roeder's actions were obviously premeditated.

Wilbert told jurors that Tiller did not pose an imminent threat to anybody when he was killed during Sunday church services in Wichita in May.

"There is no immediate danger in the back of a church," he said.

Tiller, 67, a father of four and grandfather of 10 was handing out programs at church when he was killed.

The defense rested yesterday after Roeder stepped down from the stand.

Roeder's testimony, gruesome at times, proved immensely difficult for Tiller's family, who openly cried in court. He detailed how he walked up to Tiller at the Reform Lutheran Church, put a gun to the doctor's head and pulled the trigger.

He told the jury of how his religious faith had convinced him that what Tiller was doing was wrong and how he had considered cutting off the doctor's hands with a sword. When told Tiller's clinic had closed and asked if he felt regret, Roeder replied simply, "No I don't."