It has been an interesting week for media in the courtroom. As I reported on my legal tech blawg, Cyber-Esq., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 yesterday to indefinitely block televising California’s same-sex marriage trial.
On Tuesday, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order to Judge Warren Wilbert, commanding him to reconsider a ruling excluding all media outlets from the abortion murder trial of Scott Roeder. Roeder is on trial for the shooting of Dr. George Tiller inside a Wichita church last May. Dr. George Tiller worked at a family planning clinic that performed late-term abortions, one of only a few in the country. Roeder is pictured above.
Judge Wilbert has come under close scrutiny after ruling that Roeder could present the defense of voluntary manslaughter, even though the undisputed facts of the case demonstrate that Roeder pre-meditated the shooting of Dr. Tiller. Even Roeder does not dispute the charges against him.
Despite the Kansas Supreme Court ruling, however, Judge Wilbert has ordered that media outlets can only be present after the jury selection process has narrowed the pool of potential jurors to 42. According to media reports on the judge’s order, he is apparently assuming that none of the potential jurors would want to be questioned in public about “sensitive” issues.
You can link to a Washington Post article discussing these developments here.
As reported this evening by MSNBC, the trial judge presiding over the murder trial of Scott Roeder – charged with the shooting death Dr. George Tiller (pictured here) – has reached a startling conclusion. The judge has decided that Roeder can argue that he should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter, instead of murder, because Roeder believed that, by slaying Dr. Tiller, he was saving unborn children.
Talk about judicial activism. This ruling is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. No one – not even Roeder himself – disputes that he shot Dr. Tiller, a doctor at a local family planning clinic. Moreover, the facts of the case are a law school textbook example of pre-meditated murder. Roeder armed himself with a gun, went to the Lutheran church he attended with Dr. Tiller, got up from his seat during the services, walked up to Dr. Tiller, and shot him.
By allowing Roeder – a domestic terrorist with ties to right-wing separatist group The Freemen – to argue that he should be guilty of anything less than pre-meditated murder on those undisputed facts, this judge is, in fact, carving out “special rights” for killers like Roeder. If you are a religious zealot like Roeder, apparently a special definition of what it means to murder someone applies to you that doesn’t apply to anyone else.
A verdict finding Roder guilty of manslaughter – as opposed to murder – will likely spare Roeder the death penalty. Ironic that Roeder should be so timid now to take full responsibility for his mis-deeds when, if he is to be believed, he was doing right by God in the first place.