The Wichita Eagle, Travis Heying/AP Photo
Scott Roeder listening to his attorneys during a pre-trial motion hearing inside a Sedgwick County District Courtroom in Wichita, Kansas.
Scott Roeder listening to his attorneys during a pre-trial motion hearing inside a Sedgwick County District Courtroom in Wichita, Kansas. The Wichita Eagle, Travis Heying/AP Photo
A second witness identified murder suspect Scott Roeder as the gunman who shot to death Kansas doctor and abortion provider George Tiller last May. Witness Gary Hoepner testified he was working as an usher May 31st at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita when Roeder entered the building, put the gun "point-blank" next to Tiller's head and fired. Roeder has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and aggravated assault. This is the second day of his trial in Wichita. Television station KAKE.com is covering the trial but warns while it's exercising editorial caution, some of the testimony may be deeply upsetting to viewers.
Roeder has claimed in an interview with the Associated Press that he killed Tiller but entered not guilty pleas in court. He attempted to argue Tiller's murder was necessary to stop Tiller from performing abortions but Sedgewick County District Judge Warren Wilbert forbade that defense. Wilbert says the case is not about abortion; but earlier this month he decided not to block Roeder from trying to persuade a jury to convict him of a lesser charge: "voluntary manslaughter". Defense lawyers may argue Roeder believed killing Tiller would stop some abortions. What's unclear is if that legal effort will succeed. Judge Wilbert won't decide whether to allow that lesser charge until after the defense rests its case.