A U.S. judge in Kansas on Thursday sentenced the man convicted of killing a prominent abortion doctor to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 50 years.
Scott Roeder, 52, was found guilty of first-degree murder in January for gunning down Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of a Wichita church in May 2009. During his trial, Roeder admitted killing Tiller but said he did so to protect unborn children. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Sentencing Roeder, District Judge Warren Wilbert said that if the beliefs of individuals compel them to break the law, they must be prepared to face the consequences.
"Blood of Babies is on your hands," Roeder yelled as he was being taken out of court.
Tiller was one of only a handful of U.S. doctors who performed abortions into the third trimester, which is legal under Kansas state law. He had been a lightning rod for anti-abortion foes, who nicknamed him “Tiller the baby killer.”
Roeder faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but Wilbert was tasked with deciding whether Roeder would serve 25 or 50 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Speaking on behalf of Tiller’s family, attorney Lee Thompson called the murder a “hate crime” and an act of terrorism. Thompson described Tiller as a doctor who “fell in love with practicing medicine” and who was a mentor to his two daughters and his son-in-law, all of whom became physicians.
“George was a defender of women’s rights,” Thompson said, adding Tiller “gave his life for the rights of women.”
Eugene Frye, an anti-abortion activist and acquaintance of Roeder’s, spoke as a character witness and described Roeder as “polite and courteous” and “laidback.”
“I came to believe that Scott connected himself to the babies being killed through abortion,” Frye said. He said Roeder was very upset when Tiller acquitted in March 2009 of misdemeanor charges of providing illegal late-term abortions.
Judge Wilbert cut short the testimony of Frye and three other character witnesses for Roeder after they began speaking about their abortion views.
Ahead of his sentencing, Roeder, who was warned by the judge after twice interrupting the hearing, accused the court of stifling his testimony, asking, “How is it a man can speak openly and freely at his sentencing but not at his trial?”
“The blame for George Tiller’s death lies more with the state of Kansas than with me,” Roeder said, reading from a prepared statement. “You may sentence me to 25 or 50 years in prison but it does not serve justice in any way.”
“There is another judgment coming,” Roeder said.