WICHITA, Kan. — The suspect in the killing of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller is in talks with a prominent lawyer who represents anti-abortion protesters and has long advocated justifiable homicide as a defense.
Scott Roeder, 51, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges in the May 31 shooting death of Tiller in the foyer of his Wichita church. The Kansas City, Mo., man has refused to discuss his case, but has said that Tiller's killing was justified to save "the lives of unborn children."
Roeder has court-appointed defense attorneys, but he apparently has now turned to Michael Hirsh, the attorney who represented Paul Hill on appeal for killing a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Hill was executed in 2003 after the Florida Supreme Court rejected Hirsh's argument that the judge should have allowed Hill to present to jurors his claim that the killings were justified.
Hirsh confirmed he has spoken once to Roeder in recent weeks about representing him, but he has not yet been retained. Hirsh said he had not researched the facts of the case or Kansas law enough to know whether the justifiable homicide defense could be used, but said a jury should be allowed to decide.
Roeder's trial is scheduled for Sept. 21, though a public defender said he expects to file for a continuance.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in denying Hill's appeal that his motivation would not change the outcome of the case. "As a practical matter, permitting a defendant to vindicate his or her criminal activity in this manner would be an invitation for lawlessness," the justices wrote.
But Hirsh discounted the suggestion that if a jury acquitted Roeder of murder based on such a defense, it would lead to open season on abortion doctors.