October 27, 2009

Judy Thomas in the Kansas City Star has an amazing piece (picked up by MSNBC) about the online fund-raiser being planned for Scott Roeder, the right-wing extremist who shot Dr. George Tiller in the head in his church:

An Army of God manual. A prison cookbook compiled by a woman doing time for abortion clinic bombings and arsons. An autographed bullhorn.

These are among the items that abortion foes plan to auction on eBay and other Web sites in a fundraiser for Scott Roeder, the Kansas City man charged with killing Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller.

“This is unique,” said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who will sign the bullhorn. “Nobody’s ever done this before. The goal is that everybody makes money for Scott Roeder’s defense.”

One abortion-rights leader called the auction deplorable and said it could lead to more violence.

“The network of extremists promoting and defending the murder of doctors is contributing to escalating threats against clinics and doctors across the country,” said Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Roeder, charged with first-degree murder in the May 31 shooting of Tiller, is scheduled to go to trial in January.

Perhaps even more appalling is the line of defense they hope to pursue in the courts with this money:

Leach and others would like to help Roeder hire a lawyer to present what is known as a necessity defense. That strategy would argue that Tiller was killed to prevent a greater harm — killing babies. Other anti-abortion activists charged with violent crimes have tried to use such a defense but with little success.

Yeah, let's legalize killing abortion doctors. Sounds like a job for Antonin Scalia. One can only hope this defense has zero success, as it has in the past.

Rachel Maddow also featured a segment on this story last night on her MSNBC show, including an interview with the attorney for Tiller's family, who says he'll move to have the court attach any funds they raise on Roeder's behalf:


Joining us now is Lee Thompson. He's an attorney who represented the late Dr. George Tiller for 16 years. He's currently the attorney for Dr. Tiller's widow and the doctor's estate.

Mr. Thompson, thanks very much for coming on this show.


MADDOW: First, I'll just ask for your reaction or the reaction of Dr.

Tiller's family to this planned fundraising effort for Mr. Roeder.

THOMPSON: Well, obviously, we believe that this is nothing more than a reprehensible publicity stunt that is fostered by the same people trying to sell the same publications that generated the climate of hatred and fear that led to Dr. Tiller's murder. Fortunately, it's probably also a useless exercise, because the drawings and other materials from criminals would generate funds that ought to be attached by the Kansas victim compensation fund under our Son of Sam Law.

So obviously, if this goes ahead, we'll be asking the attorney general of Kansas to simply attach whatever funds and use them to help other victims of crimes.

MADDOW: Separate from the question of fundraising or, as you say, it would in this case probably be attempted fundraising, how present are your concerns about more violence coming from the radical anti-abortion movement? Certainly, it is troubling to see Mr. Roeder as he sits there charged with first degree murder in Dr. Tiller's death to see him celebrated in this way.

THOMPSON: Absolutely. And I think it's obvious, when you look at these very materials, that it's the rhetoric that was promoted by these groups that has led to violence. The handbook of the Army of God, for example, had hints on gluing locks at abortion clinics, which Roeder did in Kansas City; hints and directions on flooding clinic roofs, which they did to Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita; bombing instructions and other violent directions that all led to that climate that made people think it was OK to do this.

They also suggested, I think, that it was justified and, thus, gave the impression that there was some justification, a defense which the law has routinely rejected.

MADDOW: Since Dr. Tiller's murder, clearly, the very far fringe, the violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement, has decided to celebrate Mr. Roeder. The pro-choice movement and I think a lot of centrists who see themselves as allied with this issue at all before Dr. Tiller's murder, have also organized in the wake of the assassination and I think tried to change minds and tried to change the climate in the country in the wake of that assassination-what's been your reaction to the overall way in which Dr. Tiller's murder has affected the country on both sides?

THOMPSON: Well, obviously, any attempt to use it to promote anti-abortion feelings is awful. It is sick. It is the worst possible thing that could be done.

This was a criminal act. It was a premeditated act. And anything that says it was OK or good is simply wrong.

Dr. Tiller provided a service that provided constitutionally protected rights for his patients. And it's extremely disturbing that the climate of fear is still being generated. Whether or not it should be used to promote the pro-choice approach is something that I'll leave up to those who are doing it. I think the family would just assume people remember Dr. Tiller for the service he gave to women over a long and distinguished career.

MADDOW: Mr. Thompson, what happens next in the case of Scott Roeder? I wonder if, legally, you believe that we can conclude from this fundraising effort that he's going to try to put abortion rights on trial, that he'll try to put the memory of Dr. Tiller on trial in his own defense?

THOMPSON: Well, they say the fundraiser is to hire an attorney to advance what's called the necessity defense, a justification for some violent act. But that's been routinely rejected by virtually every court and certainly been rejected by the supreme court of Kansas, which in 1993, in an abortion case, said, to permit such a defense would invite chaos and perhaps could lead ultimately to anarchy.

So, I can't imagine that any judge sitting in Wichita, Kansas, would go against the Kansas Supreme Court on that issue. I think that we really don't see that sort of publicity stunt working in Kansas courts very often. And I believe-with everything I hold dear-that that will be the case in this case.

MADDOW: Lee Thompson, attorney for Dr. George Tiller's widow and Dr. Tiller's estate-I know this has been an upsetting turn of events both for you and Dr. Tiller's family, thanks for being willing to talk to us about it tonight.

THOMPSON: Appreciate you having us. Thank you.

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