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October 25, 2014

Intriguing Kansas Supreme Court ruling about (full and partial) defenses in high-profile murder case

Though not precisely on-point with topics we discussed concerning intentional homicides this past week, a ruling yesterday by the Kansas Supreme Court in Kansas v. Roeder, No. 104,520 (Kan. Oct. 24, 2014) (available here), provides an interesting and high-profile example of an appeals court upholding a trial court's decision to preclude an intentional killer from having various full and partial defenses presented to a jury at his trial.  Here are the first two paragraphs from the start of this notable Roeder ruling to perhaps whet your appettite for reviewing the full opinion (which convers some concerpts will will be exploring is some depth come November):

On May 31, 2009, Scott Roeder executed his years-old plan to kill Dr. George Tiller to prevent the Wichita, Kansas, doctor from performing any further abortions.  After fatally shooting the doctor from point blank range during church services while the doctor served as an usher, Roeder hastily fled the premises. During his getaway,  Roeder threatened to shoot two other ushers who had pursued him outside the church. Roeder did not deny committing the physical acts underlying a premeditated first-degree murder charge and two counts of aggravated assault, and the jury convicted him of those offenses.

On appeal, Roeder challenges both his convictions and his hard 50 life sentence. With respect to his convictions, Roeder raised numerous issues, some of which overlap, to-wit: (1) The district court erroneously denied his requested instruction on voluntary manslaughter based upon an imperfect defense-of-others; (2) the district court violated his due process right to present a defense of voluntary manslaughter based upon an imperfect defense of another; (3) the district court erroneously denied the defense motion for a change of venue; (4) the prosecutor committed reversible misconduct during closing argument; (5) the district court violated his due process right by excluding evidence to support a necessity defense and by failing to instruct on the necessity defense; (6) the district court erroneously denied his requested second-degree murder instruction; (7) the district court erroneously denied his requested defense-of-others instruction; and (8) the cumulative effect of trial errors denied him a fair trial.  Finding that Roeder was not denied a fair trial, we affirm his convictions.

October 25, 2014 in Notable real cases | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks for sharing Professor Berman. This was a very interesting case/ruling. After reading some of the full opinion, I am looking forward to learning more about these concepts next month. Additionally, some areas of this opinion (such as the portion regarding venue) were very intriguing made me more inclined to take criminal procedure next fall!

Posted by: Madison Gesiotto | Oct 27, 2014 1:10:13 PM

I skimmed the opinion as well, and what struck me was just how much of his defense was undercut by the legality of abortion. Also, single words in a statute (like "imminent") can make a difference.

Is he even able to get the same hard 50 year sentence? It looked like he wasn't eligible for that hard 50 since the jury didn't find the existence of the aggravating factor. But they could give him 50 years under the standard 25-year minimum, correct?

Posted by: Jason Manion | Oct 27, 2014 6:38:29 PM

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