# Murder

Jury convicts killer of late-term abortion provider

After deliberating for less than an hour, a Kansas jury found anti-abortion fanatic Scott Roeder guilty of first degree murder for shooting Dr. George Tiller in church last May. Roeder admitted killing Tiller and will be sentenced in March. Prosecutors are seeking a 50-year sentence with no possibility for parole. If Roeder is sentenced to life in prison, he could be eligible for parole in 25 years. During the trial,

[Sedgwick County District Judge Warren] Wilbert had barred Roeder from using a so-called necessity defense, aiming for an acquittal by arguing that the killing was necessary to prevent a greater harm – killing babies. But the judge allowed Roeder to present evidence that he sincerely believed his actions were justified to save unborn children – a defense that could have led to a conviction on the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.

On Thursday afternoon, however, Wilbert ruled that he would not give jurors the option of considering a voluntary manslaughter conviction, because such a defense requires that a person must be stopping the imminent use of unlawful force.

Unfortunately, Roeder succeeded in shutting down Tiller’s clinic, one of very few facilities where women could receive late-term abortions. Contrary to the propaganda you may have heard from the anti-choice movement, women seeking care from Dr. Tiller didn’t just casually decide during the second or third trimester that they didn’t feel like having children.

Kansas state law allows abortions on viable fetuses after the 21st week only if carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the mother’s life or cause a “substantial and irreversible impairment” of a major bodily function. Courts have interpreted a “major bodily function” to include mental health.

Amanda Marcotte wrote before Tiller was murdered,

The argument for attacking Tiller is that he performs late term abortions, which are supposedly worse than early term ones, even though anti-choicers claim that a fertilized egg is the same thing as a 5-year-old child, so that shows that their targeting of late term providers is cynical politicking on its face.  But if you actually bother to look at why women get late term abortions, the targeting Dr. Tiller becomes even more horrifying.  Generally speaking, you’re talking about women who really wanted to have a baby, but who can’t have this one, because something is wrong with her health or that of the fetus.  Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, Dr. Tiller’s office offers a great deal of counseling services to their patients, who are often suffering trauma because of what’s happening to them.  In addition to counseling, there are baptism and funerary services, as well as photographing and footprinting, for people who want to say goodbye to the baby that they expected to have but couldn’t.  The levels of hate projected at Dr. Tiller are directly proportional to the levels of care he shows for women during this rough period of their lives.

Although Roeder will spend a long time in prison, it’s hard to feel justice has been served when he accomplished his goal.

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Judge orders new trial for David Flores

David Flores, convicted of killing Phyllis Davis in April 1996, may get a new trial, the Des Moines Register reports today:

In a rare move, Polk County District Judge Don Nickerson ruled that David Flores’ constitutional right to due process was violated because a key police report naming another suspect was never turned over to his original defense lawyer.

Nickerson also found to be credible new testimony this year from a woman who said that suspect, Rafael Robinson, admitted he accidentally shot Davis.

Nickerson’s ruling indicated those two elements likely would have affected the outcome of Flores’ trial in 1997. […]

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said Wednesday he “respectfully but strongly” disagreed with the judge’s decision. He has asked the state attorney general’s office to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court on his office’s behalf.

An appeal before the state’s high court typically takes nine months to a year. The court can opt not to hear an appeal. In that case, Sarcone would have to decide whether to try Flores anew or set him free.

The Des Moines Register has a timeline of the Flores case here, as well as a good piece by Lee Rood on seven people who “cast doubt on evidence that helped convict Flores.Commenting on the case last year, Rob Warden of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law

said he’s never heard of an alleged wrongful conviction case in which three separate people came forward independently to name another suspect.

“There’s an extremely high probability that he’s innocent,” said Warden, whose [center] has helped exonerate dozens of people. “The fact that you now have three people who don’t have any connection to each other and no discernible motive to do anything but tell the truth is just extremely persuasive.”

Speaking to the Des Moines Register yesterday, Polk County Attorney Sarcone dismissed the police report implicating Robinson as “two or three levels of hearsay.” I am no lawyer, but if multiple witnesses also say Robinson killed Davis, it is hard for me to believe prosecutors could prove Flores guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a new trial.  

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