(AP Photo/Jaime Oppenheimer)
(AP/Mike Hutmacher, Wichita Eagle)
WICHITA, Kan. (CBS/AP) He had to kill so others could live. That's the argument defense attorneys are set to make Dec. 22 for Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion activist accused of shooting abortion doctor George Tiller.
(AP/Travis Heying, Wichita Eagle)
Photo: Scott Roeder attends a preliminary hearing in Wichita, Kan. July 28, 2009.
This is an about face in strategy from their previous statement back in November when Roeder seemingly confessed to the Associated Press that he murdered the prominent and controversial abortion doctor "because of the necessity defense," saying that he was defending "preborn children."
At the time, public defender Steve Osburn said there was no such thing as the necessity defense and that it "does not seem to be the approach that is viable, nor is it the approach we intend to use."
Photo: Dr. George Tiller March 23, 2009.
The 51-year-old Roeder, from Kansas City, Mo., is charged with one count of premeditated, first-degree murder in Dr. Tiller's death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers during a May 31 melee in which Tiller was shot in the foyer of his Wichita church.
Previous attempts by other anti-abortion activists to use this defense have failed. The most prominent example was Rachelle Renae Shannon who tried to kill Tiller in 1993. He was wounded but survived and continued to run his abortion clinic. Shannon was sentenced to 10 years for the crime, but remains in jail for other anti-abortion attacks.
Photo: The body of Dr. George Tiller is removed from Reformation Lutheran Church on Sunday, May 31, 2009.
Judge Warren Wilbert is set to hear a variety of other motions from both sides according to CBS affiliate KWCH, which is running a live blog of the hearing. The station says Wilbert has already denied a defense motion for change of venue saying that he feels it would be premature to rule out the possibility of finding impartial jurors before attorneys even begin the process.
Judge Warren did say he would keep an open mind and that the court would be closely monitoring all juror questionnaires to spot overriding prejudices.
Prosecutors have said that they would prefer it if abortion were not mentioned at all during the trial, set to begin in January 2010. Instead they want to focus on the details of the May afternoon when Roeder allegedly terrorized Dr. Tiller's Wichita church.
Judge Wilbert's ruling on whether to allow the necessity defense could potentially set the eventual course for a verdict when combined with Roeder's media confession and a significant amount of evidence against him.
MORE ON CRIMESIDER
November 10, 2009 - Roeder Admits Killing Kansas Abortion Doctor George Tiller; Says He Has No Regrets
October 26, 2009 - What Will EBay Do? Anti-Abortion Auction Slated for Alleged Killer of Abortion Doctor George Tiller
June 11, 2009 - Abortion Foes Want To Buy Slain Abortion Doc's Clinic
June 8, 2009 - Alleged Abortion Doc Killer Says More Murders Planned
June 4, 2009 - PETA Places Billboards In Wake Of Tiller Murder
June 2, 2009 - Man Charged With Killing Abortion Doc Has Long Anti-Gov History
June 2, 2009 - Abortion Debate Rages: Tiller Called "Mass Murderer"
June 2, 2009 - Abortion Foes Fear Backlash To Tiller's Slaying
June 1, 2009 - Abortion Doctor Murdered In Church, Suspect Jailed