This issue has lately gotten a great deal of press. My take on it is here. It might surprise you. Hint: It’s important to separate the symbolic, commitment part of marriage from the legal incidents of it.
The judge in the George Tiller homicide case has ruled that, at least for now, the defense may present the jury with the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. If convicted on this lesser charge, Scott Roeder may end up spending only a few years in prison for what everyone agrees was a deliberate act: Roeder walked up to Tiller in church, put a gun to his head, and calmly pulled the trigger.
Why voluntary manslaughter? That’s the usual conviction where the defendant believes, unreasonably but sincerely, that he needs to take a life in self-defense, or in defense of a third party. Here, though, the claim is quite different. Roeder claims that he believed he was saving the life of unborn children from Tiller, who performed some late-term abortions.
The judge’s decision to allow this theory to proceed beggars belief. Whatever Roeder’s personal, philosophical or religious convictions, the plain fact is that Tiller was performing procedures that are legal and sanctioned by the state. Would the judge allow this lesser-crime argument to be made by a defendant who killed a flag-burner because he thought that was the only way to prevent terrorist attacks? The logic is a bit more attenuated, but the theory is the same: As long as you have a good-faith (if nutso) belief in what you’re doing, let the arguments for reduced culpability begin.
If this works, expect further violence against abortion providers. We’ve already got a good example of how this ruling will embolden other “baby-saving” killers: The “Rev.” Don Spitz, who runs this astonishing website calling for violence against doctors who perform abortions, pronounced himself “flabbergasted, but in a good way,” at the ruling. The site applauds Scott Roeder. Click over at your own risk.
Were I the prosecutor, I would immediately take whatever steps I could to get this insane decision reversed: stay, mandamus — whatever the local rules allow. This dangerous action can’t go unchallenged.