Defiant in court, a man who murdered one of the few US doctors who performed late-term abortions used his sentencing hearing to do what the judge wouldn’t let him do during his trial — justify his crime by describing abortion in gritty detail.
Scott Roeder was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years, the harshest sentence possible under Kansas law for gunning down George Tiller in the foyer of the Wichita physician’s church in May last year.
“I stopped him so he could not dismember another innocent baby,” Roeder said. “Wichita is a far safer place for unborn babies without George Tiller.”
Roeder, 52, was also sentenced to an additional year in prison on each of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two church ushers as he fled. With time off for good behavior, Roeder won’t be eligible for parole for 51 years and eight months.
An attorney for Tiller, speaking in court as a friend of the slain doctor, said the toughest sentence would discourage other anti-abortion zealots from attacking doctors. Tiller’s widow, Jeanne, cried as the sentence for murder was announced.
“We only can hope that this sentence will serve as a deterrent to those who have conspired and continue to conspire to murder abortion providers,” the Tiller family said in a statement. “Certainly everything possible should be done by the prison system to insure that this man does not continue to foment hatred and violence from his prison cell.”
Roeder said that he had chosen to obey “God’s law” to save babies.
“I did kill him. It was not a murder,” Roeder said. “If you were to obey the higher power of God himself, you would acquit me.”
Roeder also took the opportunity to describe abortion procedures in detail, which he had been forbidden from doing during his trial.
Most abortions are legal in Kansas, and prosecutors were careful not turn the trial into a referendum on the issue.
Roeder accused District Judge Warren Wilbert of “duplicity” and said his trial was a miscarriage of justice because he wasn’t allowed to present testimony then about the evils of abortion. He also said God’s judgment against the US will “sweep over this land like a prairie wind.”
“He will avenge every drop of innocent blood,” Roeder said.
Forty minutes into his remarks, Wilbert stopped Roeder as he was about to publicly attack District Attorney Nola Foulston.
“It is not a forum for you to get on a soapbox for you to give your entire political beliefs,” Wilbert told Roeder.
Roeder later interrupted Wilbert several times as the judge pronounced sentence.
When Wilbert read from a previous court decision saying that allowing vigilantism would promote chaos, Roeder said: “Baby murder is anarchy and chaos.”
As he was being led away in handcuffs after the sentencing, Roeder shouted: “Blood of babies on your hands.”
Roeder’s ex-wife said the outbursts were characteristic of the man she knew. Lindsey Roeder said she and their son, Nicholas, were relieved by the sentence.
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