I will write more about this later as time allows, but the judge in the Scott Roeder case — Roeder is the man who shot abortion provider George Tiller at Tiller’s church — has ruled that Roeder may present a case for voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. Voluntary manslaughter is a less serious crime than murder, and subject to softer penalties. This doesn’t mean that Roeder is only being charged with voluntary manslaughter; my best guess based on the judge’s comments here is that he doesn’t want this case to be overturned on appeal, and so he’s allowing the jury to consider voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense. Which makes sense.
Except that there are, of course, bigger issues at play. The judge at least rejected Roeder’s proposed “necessity” defense, but a jury will still have the option of giving Roeder a lighter sentence if the defense makes the case that Roeder had an “unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” If the jury does buy that defense — and you can bet that Roeder’s team will make the trial about Dr. Tiller and abortion — it lessens the disincentives for other would-be terrorists to take out abortion providers. The promoters of anti-choice violence themselves admit as much:
A man who runs a Web site supporting violence against abortion providers said in the wake of the judge’s decision that he has changed his mind about attending Roeder’s trial.
The Rev. Don Spitz of Chesapeake, Va., said he and other activists from the Army of God plan to observe the court proceedings quietly next week.
“I am flabbergasted, but in a good way,” Spitz said of the judge’s decision.
Spitz acknowledged that the possibility of a voluntary manslaughter defense may influence some people who in the past wouldn’t kill abortion providers because of the prospect of a sentence of death or life imprisonment. “It may increase the number of people who may be willing to take that risk,” he said.
That isn’t to say that the judge’s reasoning isn’t legally sound; I haven’t read all the details, so I can’t really opine on that. But this is one of those situations where the law butts up against real-life dangers and, right or wrong, this defense may have dire consequences.
I hope the jury has the sense to convict Roeder for what he did: He killed Dr. Tiller in cold blood, after carefully planning the murder. I’m increasingly losing confidence in that outcome.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- Who Killed George Tiller? by Jill June 1, 2009
- Anti-Choice Terrorists Claim First Amendment Rights by Jill February 3, 2008
- Dr. Carhart targeted by anti-choice activists by Jill December 4, 2009
- Dr. Tiller’s Clinic Will Remain Closed by Cara June 9, 2009
- Anti-Choice Dems Receive Death Threats From Pro-Lifers by Jill March 24, 2010