If ever anyone planned and carried out the killing of another human being, Scott Roeder’s testimony at his trial yesterday made clear that he did. He described taking his pistol to George Tiller’s church two times prior to when he actually got to the doctor, pressing the muzzle against his head and pulling the trigger. The killing had been something he’d been meditating, he said, since 1993. The Kansas City Star, has the story and the chilling video.
The real news was not Roeder’s admissions, but Judge Warren Wilbert’s ruling that he would not permit jurors to consider a verdict of voluntary manslaughter–something he had left open as a possibility. A defense of voluntary manslaughter is only permissible if the accused acted to stop the imminent use of unlawful force.
“There’s no imminence of danger on a Sunday morning in the back of a church,” Wilbert said, “let alone unlawful conduct. In the state of Kansas, abortions are legal.”
Under the circumstances, classic civil disobedience theory would suggest that Roeder go ahead and plead guilty, contending that he had acted in order to protest an unjust law and throwing himself on the mercy of the court. Perhaps he’ll do so. But anti-abortion radicals seem to have a difficult time admitting that abortion is actually legal in America. Acknowledging that they are law-breakers seems more than they can manage.