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Judge May Allow Manslaughter Verdict in Trial of Accused Abortion-Doc Killer

Posted Jan 11, 2010 10:59 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Kansas judge may allow jurors trying a man accused of killing an abortion doctor to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Judge Warren Wilbert said on Friday that “it’s a very real possibility” the evidence will require him to instruct the jury on the possible lesser offense, the Kansas City Star reports. Trial begins today in Wichita with jury selection for the defendant, Scott Roeder, who has admitted that he killed abortion doctor George Tiller last May to save “preborn children.”

Wilbert has banned reporters from jury selection, expected to take up much of the week, the Associated Press reports. AP and other news outlets have appealed the ruling.

Wilbert’s statement surprised those on both sides of the abortion issue, according to the Star and CNN. Since Roeder’s beliefs are at the center of his defense, “the trial could become the next forum in the fierce debate over one of the nation's most emotionally charged and divisive issues,” CNN says.

Kansas statute defines voluntary manslaughter as "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”

Wilbert said Friday that he won’t allow the trial to focus on the bigger issue of abortion. "It will be limited to Mr. Roeder's beliefs, and how he came to form those beliefs,” he said.

Hat tip to Crime Scene KC.

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