WICHITA — A Sedgwick County district judge ruled this morning that Scott Roeder's murder trial will begin next month in Wichita and limited the use of the so-called "necessity defense."
But Judge Warren Wilbert said he would "leave the door open" for Roeder's defense to present other evidence and arguments that he killed Wichita abortion provider George Tiller in belief that he was saving the lives of unborn fetuses.
That leaves open the possibility that Roeder's public defenders could ask jurors to consider crimes less than first-degree premeditated murder. Kansas law, for example, defines voluntary manslaughter as the "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force."
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Wilbert said that he will not, however, allow Roeder to use what has been called a "necessity defense," where the defendant claims that he or she broke the law to prevent a greater harm. Roeder has said he killed Tiller to save the lives of fetuses who were being aborted.
But Wilbert said the necessity defense is not recognized under Kansas law, and appeals court have ruled it unacceptable in cases of trespassing on abortion clinics. If courts have ruled it not a viable defense in misdemeanor cases, it wouldn't apply to murder, Wilbert ruled.
Earlier in the day, Wilbert ruled that the defense would not be allowed peremptory jury strikes based on a juror's beliefs about abortion.
More information on the 'necessity defence':
The necessity defense has been used with sporadic and very limited success in the area of civil disobedience since the 1970s. The most common circumstances involve public protests against Abortion, Nuclear Power, and Nuclear Weapons. Virtually all abortion protesters who have tried to avail themselves of the defense have lost. The courts have reasoned that because the right to an abortion is constitutionally protected, it cannot simultaneously be a legally recognized harm justifying illegal action.
Indeed, it was used unsuccessfully by Shelley Shannon who was convicted of attempted murder for the crime of shooting Dr Tiller in both arms in 1993.
We'll be following the