A Kansas judge has set a January trial date for Scott Roeder, who gunned down abortion provider George Tiller in May. He also refused to let Roeder's lawyers use a "necessity defense," though they can still argue for voluntary manslaughter.
The "necessity defense" would have allowed Roeder to argue that he killed Tiller because he was compelled to prevent greater harm. The ruling yesterday in a Kansas district court established that it wouldn't fly, because (a) Kansas doesn't recognize the "necessity defense," and (b) abortion is legal. The judge did, however, say that he would leave the door open — though not "wide open" — to different arguments about using force to prevent harm.
According to The Los Angeles Times, such a defense, if successful, could mean a lighter sentence for Roeder: "Kansas law, for example, defines voluntary manslaughter as the 'unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.' A conviction of voluntary manslaughter would carry a sentence of fewer than 10 years in prison for Roeder, compared with a life sentence for murder."
So far, Roeder's lawyers haven't offered much of a preview of what they'll argue. We'll keep you posted.