MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
The man found guilty of first degree murder in the shooting of a Kansas abortion provider faces sentencing today in Wichita. Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller last May. Tiller was one of the few doctors who performed late abortions at the clinic he operated. Roeder now faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 50 years. NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.
KATHY LOHR: Unapologetic and without remorse, Scott Roeder testified he observed Tiller and waited for an opportunity. He watched the doctor at his clinic, at his home inside a gated community, and finally at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he shot Tiller in the head.
This audio recording of Roeder was posted on YouTube not long after the guilty verdict.
Mr. SCOTT ROEDER: I was quoted as asking if I had any regrets. I guess I said no. I didn't have any regrets except for maybe the fact that if the law would have done what it was supposed to do and stopped Mr. Tiller, it would not have had to come to this conclusion.
LOHR: Roeder said he needed to protect unborn children and called Tiller a hit man. Anti-abortion activist, David Leach from Iowa, posted Roeder's remarks on the Internet.
Mr. DAVID LEACH (Anti-abortion activist): Scott Roeder, at heart, is a law-abiding citizen.
LOHR: Leach is planning to testify as a character witness on Roeder's behalf.
Mr. LEACH: Outside this one action, he has a clean record. He's not a fellow who curses, drinks, smokes, does any of the things which you associate with that. He's a churchgoer, and he would like to be a law-abiding citizen.
LOHR: Leach also believes abortion is murder. He says the judge should have given jury members instructions which would've allowed them to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Some who oppose abortion say they are counting on an appeal and hope to get assistance from several anti-abortion attorneys.
During the trial, prosecutors tried to keep the abortion issue out of the case. They called the act premeditated murder. Citing aggravating factors, prosecutors are now seeking a stiffer sentence life without parole for 50 years instead of 25 years. Some watching the case say even character witnesses probably won't help Roeder avoid a stiffer sentence. Michael Kaye is a law professor at Washburn University in Topeka.
Professor MICHAEL KAYE (Law, Washburn University): The judge is going to have to weigh whatever evidence he brings against the aggravating factors. Among those factors is that prior stalking of the victim. And his testimony clearly established that he had stalked the victim.
LOHR:�Abortion-rights advocates say a harsh sentence in this case is key to preventing violence against abortion providers in the future. Vickie Saporta is with the National Abortion Federation.
Ms. VICKIE SAPORTA (President, National Abortion Federation): This was, in many ways, a hate crime. And those who are contemplating committing a similar crime need to understand that they will not get away with it and that they will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
LOHR: Those who support abortion rights say no one can replace Tiller. But they say a number of doctors have started performing later abortions since the Kansas clinic closed. They don't want to say how many or where they're located, but at least one doctor in New Mexico posted on his Web site that he is offering abortions in response to Tiller's murder. Tiller's family did not say whether they will testify at today's hearing.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News.
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