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On Morning Edition: Update on Roeder Case and the “Justifiable Homicide” Defense

December 22, 2009

Morning Edition this morning provided an update on the case of Scott Roeder, accused of murdering Dr. George Tiller (summary here, there doesn’t seem to be a transcript).

Roeder pleaded not guilty in the shooting of Dr. Tiller, has admitted killing him, and claims he did it to protect unborn children (who I’d say were under no immediate threat while Dr. Tiller was at church that day). The justifiable homicide defense has apparently not been allowed when it has been attempted in previous cases of this nature. One supporter of the defense is interviewed and compares Roeder’s plea to stepping forward to defend a born child under attack, but the piece notes that Dr. Tiller was not engaged in any illegal activity, creating a distinction between the acts.

The piece also notes that those engaged in civil disobedience are expected to serve the legal consequences, and cites a previous court opinion that “allowing the personal, ethical, moral or religious beliefs of a person to justify criminal activity would not only lead to chaos, but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy.” Not being a legal expert, but simply imagining the acts that might be justifiable under such a standard, makes me think there is a whole lot of sense in that statement.

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