by Cliff Judy (WICHITA, Kan.)
Jurors heard testimony on Monday from the prosecution's two main witnesses in Scott Roeder's murder trial. In a surprising move, prosecutors also brought up the abortion issue instead of fighting defense attempts to bring it up in court.
Roeder has admitted to killing Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller while Tiller served as an usher at his east Wichita church.
On Monday, prosecutors called two men who were serving as ushers with Tiller when he was shot. When Gary Hoepner saw Roeder leave the Reformation Lutheran Church sanctuary, he thought the man was headed for the restroom. Hoepner then saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
"He just walked up, put the gun up, and boom!" Hoepner testified Monday. "Shot (Tiller). Point blank right to the side of his head."
"It was like it slowed down. I was like, 'Is that a real gun?' And then George fell. In my mind, I repeated, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!'"
Hoepner and fellow usher Keith Martin chased Roeder from the church. They say Roeder had already threatened Hoepner with the gun by the time Martin confronted the shooter.
"I didn't have a good intent other than generally to stop him from leaving until police could get there," Martin testified. "I didn't have a real firm plan in mind."
Martin stood in front of Roeder's car to keep the him from leaving, but he says Roeder again pulled his gun.
"He said, 'Move!' and I didn't move," Martin testified. "Then he said, 'Move or I'll shoot you,' and he pulled his gun up and pointed it at my face. At that point, I felt like he was going to shoot me if I didn't move, so I moved out of the way."
Roeder would be caught and arrested hours later in Johnson County.
Prosecutors seemed to alter trial strategy Monday as they asked their own witnesses about abortion. They'd indicated they didn't want the issue brought up at trial, and as recently as Friday, prosecutors fought every attempt by defense attorneys to even hint at the abortion issue during witness cross examination.
Roeder's defense attorneys have motivation to bring the issue up in front of jurors because they want to use a defense of others trial strategy. If the judge eventually allows jurors to consider the strategy during jury deliberations, it could lead to a lesser charge against Roeder than first degree murder.
In Kansas, a conviction for first degree murder carries the mandatory penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years. Roeder is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening Hoepner and Martin.
For a detailed account of Monday'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.