The murderer of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller may only be facing half of his original sentence thanks to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, The Kansas City Star reported recently.
Scott Roeder, who was sentenced to life in prison under Kansas's "Hard 50" mandatory minimum sentencing law, is likely among thousands of inmates around the country whose jail term will be impacted by the Supreme Court's ruling in Alleyne v. United States. In its most recent term, the court handed down several major rulings dealing with prisoner sentencing, resulting in further restrained judges and prosecutors and more powerful juries.
None of those decisions were more important than Alleyne, in which the American Civil Liberties Union and The Sentencing Project successfully argued that mandatory minimum sentences, particularly for drug-related crimes, are one of the main drivers of racial disparities in the nation's prison system.
As a consequence of Alleyne, the Kansas Attorney General dropped a "Hard 50" prosecution against Brett Seacat, a man who was convicted of murdering his wife. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told The Kansas City Star the ruling also means any "Hard 50" case on appeal in Kansas are likely to also be impacted by Alleyne. And one of those appeals is Scott Roeder's.
A jury deliberated for 37 minutes before finding Roeder guilty of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a frequent rhetorical target of Fox News Republican opinion host Bill O'Reilly and the fourth U.S. abortion doctor to die at the hands of right-wing assassins. Roeder, who was 51 at the time a judge sentenced him to a "Hard 50" in 2010, murdered Tiller with a single gunshot to the forehead in front of Tiller's church congregation. He later testified that he did in fact shoot Tiller in order to save babies.
Because of his age and because of the way the concurrent sentences stacked up against him, Roeder's "Hard 50" sentence was delivered to him by a judge who called it a life sentence, yet thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling in Alleyne, there's a chance that might not be the case.
"Judges might still have some room to maneuver, using avenues such as revisting the sentencing phase of a case still on appeal, or stacking sentences consecutively to reach a higher number of years to be served," The Kansas City Star opined on Wednesday. "Certainly there are good reasons for sentencing guidelines to help keep justice fair. But families of victims also deserve their due in extreme cases."
This video is from The Associated Press, published to YouTube on April 1, 2010.