Today the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a murder conviction and vacated the hard-50 sentence of Scott Roeder, who was convicted of killing George Tiller, an abortion doctor.
The case was sent back to the Sedgwick County District Court for resentencing.
Roeder appealed his conviction of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault in the 2009 case. Roeder, who was from Merriam, Kan., drove to Wichita with a plan to kill Dr. Tiller, and shot him from point-blank range while Tiller was attending church in the Wichita area, according to court documents. Roeder had purchased a semi-automatic weapon in Lawrence, Kan., before the shooting, court documents stated.
While Roeder admitted killing the doctor and having a premeditated plan to do so — and had been planning to do so for more than a decade — he appealed his conviction and sentence on a number of technical points including due process and a change of venue request due to pretrial publicity.
Today the Kansas Supreme Court also agreed with the district court that Roeder could not present a “necessity” defense and that the facts of the case did not support that defense.
“Once the choice of evils is clarified to be the premeditated intentional murder of a human being versus the violation of administrative procedures governing an otherwise legal abortion, the answer is crystal clear,” the Supreme Court stated today. “By analogy, no one would find it necessary to kill an over-the-road trucker for failing to maintain an up-to-date log book. Roeder cannot clear the first hurdle of the necessity defense because he did not choose the lesser evil when he killed Dr. Tiller in cold blood.”
While the Kansas Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions, it sent back the case for resentencing because since the original sentence was handed down, the high courts have changed the way they handle hard-50 sentences.
The high court has stated that “a hard-50 sentence based upon a judge’s own preponderance-of-the-evidence determination that an aggravating factor existed is unconstitutional, and must be vacated,” the opinion stated. The older method violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, according to the opinion.
To see today’s court decision, visit http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2014/20141024/104520.pdf.