by Cliff Judy (WICHITA, Kan.)
Scott Roeder took the stand Thursday morning with the idea of testifying in his own defense, but it didn't take long for him to admit to killing a Wichita abortion provider. Late Thursday, Judge Warren Wilbert also ruled jurors will not be allowed to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Roeder had already told media and the court he killed Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was serving as an usher at his east Wichita church when Roeder walked up behind him, put a .22-caliber handgun to Tiller's forehead, and pulled the trigger.
Roeder took the stand for more than three hours Thursday as the only defense witness in his murder trial. He was calm, straight-forward, and matter-of-fact on the stand. He was also anything but remorseful.
"The lives of those children were in imminent danger," said Roeder. "If someone did not stop George Tiller, he was going to continue as he had done 36 years prior."
Roeder explained he'd thought of trying to shut down Tiller's clinic for years. He considered ramming his car into Tiller's, but Roeder wasn't convinced that would be fatal and was worried about innocent bystanders. He thought of cutting off the doctor's hands with a sword, but wanted something more permanent. Roeder also abandoned the idea of using a rifle to kill Tiller from a distance as he left his clinic.
Roeder tried several times to inject more on his abortion beliefs than he was allowed. He had to be told by the judge and prosecutors several times to stop.
When Roeder tried to describe one form of abortion as "tearing the baby limb from limb," Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston jumped from her seat and screamed, "Objection, Your Honor!"
After Roeder was off the stand and defense attorneys rested their case, the judge excused jurors from the courthouse so attorneys could begin arguing over jury instructions.
Judge Wilbert had indicated earlier it would be difficult for defense attorneys to convince him a voluntary manslaughter jury instruction was appropriate. Attorneys had hoped the judge would consider Roeder had an honest, yet unreasonable, belief he needed to kill Tiller to shut down his clinic. On Wednesday, Wilbert continued to warn defense attorneys Tiller didn't pose an imminent danger and wasn't doing anything illegal when he died, which is also required for a manslaughter charge.
On Friday morning, the judge will read jury instructions, followed by closing arguments from both sides. The jury could have the case as early as Friday's lunch break.
If convicted of first degree murder, Roeder faces life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
For a detailed account of Thursday's testimony as it happened and pictures from inside the courtroom, you can click on Eyewitness News Reporter Cliff Judy's interactive blog listed on this page. Cliff will provide a new blog every day of the trial, and Eyewitness News will provide coverage of the Roeder murder trial gavel-to-gavel.