WICHITA, Kan. (AP)— Those living on the virulent edge of the anti-abortion movement pinned their hopes on Scott Roeder.
Testifying in his own defense, a remorseless and resolute Roeder insisted he had committed a justified act for the defense of unborn children by killing Dr. George Tiller, one of the country’s few physicians to offer late-term abortions. It was a bold legal strategy that, if successful, had the potential to radically alter the debate over abortion by reducing the price for committing such an act of violence.
When it failed, those who share Roeder’s passionate, militant belief against abortion were outraged: One said they are getting tired of being treated as a “piece of dirt” unable to express the reasons for such acts in court. So while relieved at the outcome, abortion-rights advocates worry a verdict that should be a deterrent will instead further embolden those prone to violence.
“Many of those who came here in his support will be key to making (Roeder) a martyr for their cause _ all in furtherance of advocating deadly violence,” said Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Roeder faces a minimum sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years in prison when he’s sentenced March 9, although prosecutors will ask the judge to require the 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man to serve at least 50 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole. His attorneys plan to appeal, arguing jurors should have been allowed to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, requiring proof that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified.
The Rev. Donald Spitz, of Chesapeake, Va., who runs the Army of God Web site supporting violence against abortion providers, said the rejection of that argument has upset those who view Roeder as a hero.
“I know there is not a lot of good feeling out there _ everybody is pretty angry,” he said.
Spitz was the spiritual adviser to Paul Hill and was with him at his 2003 execution for the killing of a Florida abortion provider and a clinic escort in 1994, an event that led to a lull in violence at abortion clinics. While saying he knows nothing of impending plans by others against abortion doctors, Spitz scoffed at suggestions that Roeder’s conviction will have a similar effect.
“Times change,” Spitz said. “People are not as passive as they have been. They are more assertive.”
Such comments terrify abortion-rights advocates, who say they’ll continue to press the Obama administration for deeper protections, such as buffer zones around clinics, to protect doctors against others who might follow in Roeder’s steps. Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said her group had noticed a rise in anti-abortion violence over the past year.
“We used to have members report incidents once a month _ now it’s every day,” Saporta said. “Every time, we forward it on to Justice Department task force, and they report it to FBI so nothing slips through the cracks.”
Others are demanding a federal investigation and prosecution of what they claim is a network of extremists, citing Roeder’s testimony that he talked to others about justifiable homicide of abortion doctors.
“To see each murder as an isolated attack by one individual misses the fact there are these connections,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It’s of extreme concern that some anti-choice fanatics will want to see themselves martyred in similar ways. It is a frightening possibility there will be copy cats.”
Spitz said he has twice been subpoenaed to testify before grand juries in the past and FBI agents have been to his house several times. He disavows the existence of any organized conspiracy.
“We don’t have a group,” he said. “It is a belief system.”
At least one Justice Department official attended the trial, along with agents from the FBI. Justice officials in Washington declined to comment Friday. But in the wake of Tiller’s death, the Justice Department increased security around women’s health facilities and opened an ongoing investigation to try to determine if Roeder had accomplices.
Among the other spectators at the trial was Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, which organized the 1991 “Summer of Mercy” protests that included attempts to block Tiller’s Wichita clinic and led to more than 2,700 arrests. As the jury was deliberating in Wichita, Terry said he believed that no matter the outcome of Roeder’s trial, more violence was inevitable.
“The blood of these babies slain by Tiller is crying for vengeance,” he said.
‘Rather than leading — he lies’: MSNBC panel says Trump is a ‘danger to the country’ because he can’t be trusted
MSNBC commentators, former assistant US Attorney Maya Wiley and Rick Wilson, explained that President Donald Trump's most significant barrier is making it past his own lies to save America from the coronavirus.
"There's a case tonight being tested in Walton County, Florida. The heart of Trump country," said Wilson, referring to the panhandle county east of Pensacola. "That's not going to be something you can just walk away from if it turns out to be a real case. We're seeing these things popping up all over. The safe bet was always to say, 'This could be bad. We'll do everything we can to stop it.' But he can't stop himself from self-aggrandizing and lying about things. And it's actually -- setting aside my normal criticism of Trump -- this is a danger to the country that he is not a trustworthy person for the American people. Even people who like him now he BS's them all the time. Now, if he says it's not a problem and people are being hospitalized, it is a problem."
Trump ‘just wants this problem to go away’: President desperate to get coronavirus ‘off his plate’
President Donald Trump is desperate for the coronavirus problem to go away, and he doesn't exactly care how it happens.
According to New York Times reporter Annie Karni, sources are telling her that the biggest concern Trump has is more about the markets than the deaths of Americans from the virus.
"First, let's establish, this is a president who tried to change science with a Sharpie when it came to hurricane path prediction," said MSNBC host Brian Williams. "That picture lasts forever."
"Even his allies on Fox and his allies outside the White House were kind of channeling to that proverbial audience of one that this was a great opportunity to look presidential and to tell the facts," said Karni. The Donald Trump we saw out there in the briefing room was very casual, kind of left the facts to the other people that accompanied him out there. But he clearly publicly and privately just wants this problem to go away. He wants to downplay it. He thinks -- he has called people who are talking about fears about it alarmist. He doesn't want to be alarmist, and he's kind of holding on to any comment that makes it sound like this will naturally be a problem that is removed from his plate. That's what we saw publicly, and that's what he's been saying privately as well."
Seth Meyers: You know Trump isn’t the chief law enforcement officer because he couldn’t pass the physical
"Late Night" host Seth Meyers warned that the United States is sliding into authoritarianism under President Donald Trump.
Sounding the alarm Wednesday evening, Meyers cited reports that Trump was making lists of disloyal people, purging them from their jobs, hiring unqualified cronies in top posts, and claiming he has the right to interfere in criminal cases.
While speaking to the press last week, Trump even announced that he's allowed to be involved in all criminal cases because he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. It's actually a title used for the attorney general.