National Abortion Federation And ACLU Ask Court To Preclude Voluntary Manslaughter Charge In Trial Of Dr. Tiller's Murderer

January 27, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                     
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WICHITA, KS – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Abortion Federation, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Kansas in the trial of Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer of Dr. George Tiller, asking the court to preclude Roeder from arguing his anti-abortion beliefs in support of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter rather than first degree murder. 

"In a civilized society we cannot allow extremists to commit murder to advance their own religious or political beliefs," said Vicki Saporta, President of the National Abortion Federation. "Scott Roeder should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"Allowing the defense to argue that Scott Roeder's anti-abortion beliefs in any way lessen his accountability in Dr. Tiller's murder sends an ominous signal to all vigilantes," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "We should all be concerned; having sincere political beliefs does not mean someone should be able to get away with murder."

Scott Roeder has been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller on May 31, 2009, while Dr. Tiller was attending services at his local church. Earlier this month, in pre-trial hearings, Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that he would not allow Roeder to use a justifiable homicide defense, but left open the possibility that the defense could put on evidence that would support the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. This ruling might permit Roeder to argue that he was motivated by anti-abortion beliefs and therefore should be held less accountable.

"This is a dangerous misinterpretation of the law," said Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel & Legal Director, ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri. "No matter what our political or moral beliefs, we are not entitled to kill those who disagree with us. We would not allow someone who murders a general to get a lesser sentence because the murder was motivated by a belief that war is unjustifiable." 

Doctors who provide abortion care deserve the full protection of the law. They devote their lives to ensuring that women can obtain the health care they need. It is important that we support a woman's ability to make this most private, personal decision, and it is critical that we protect the medical professionals who care for them.

If convicted of first degree murder, Roeder could be facing a life sentence; if convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he could receive less than 10 years for Dr. Tiller's murder.

Lawyers on today's brief include Kolbi-Molinas and Talcott Camp of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Bonney of the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri.

The ACLU brief is available at: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/state-kansas-v-roeder-aclu-amicus-brief

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