George Tiller was a Kansas doctor nationally known as one of three Americans physicians at the time offering abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. He was shot and killed in 2009 by an anti-abortion activist.
Under Kansas state law at the time, anyone who wished to receive an abortion was required to receive an opinion from two separate physicians who could not be financially affiliated. In 2003, George Tiller faced charges that 19 patients had received second opinions from Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus in appointments scheduled through his office.
In court, George Tiller said that this scheduling arrangement had been established on the basis of his attorney. Each charge carried a potential sentence of up to a year. However, the only witness presented by the prosecution was Dr. Neuhaus, weakening their case. George Tiller was acquitted of all the charges against him, pending an administrative review of his license by the state Board of Healing Arts.
In May 2009, George Tiller was killed by Scott Roeder, who shot him in the head. Roeder had previously been arrested and convicted when he was discovered transporting explosives in his car in 1996. Initially unidentified as the shooter, Roeder escaped from the scene of the crime but was found and arrested within three hours. He was arraigned on June 2, 2009. At this time, Roeder declined to enter a plea regarding the murder of George Tiller and requested that he be assigned a public defender. A preliminary hearing concerning charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault was held on July 28.
In January of 2010, Roeder's arguments successfully argued that he could be charged with "voluntary manslaughter," in which a fatality is committed by someone who honestly believes it to be justifiable. The actual trial began on January 22. During the course of argument, Roeder's lawyers attempted to call two judicial officials who had attempted to convict George Tiller on other charges at earlier dates to testify about his abortion activities. However, the court ruled that this testimony regarding legal abortions was irrelevant and likely to prejudice jurors and disallowed it.
Scott Roeder took the stand as a witness in the trial of the murder of George Tiller on January 28. During the course of his testimony, Roeder defended himself by saying homicide was justifiable to save the lives of unborn children. However, his attempts to provide graphic descriptions of the abortion process practiced by George Tiller were successfully objected to by the prosecution. At the conclusion of his testimony, the judge reversed the earlier standing and prohibited the jury from convicting Scott Roeder on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
The day following Roeder's testimony, the jury found him guilty of the murder of George Tiller as well as the two aggravated assault charges. His sentencing occurred on April 1. At this time he was given a sentence of 50 years of incarceration without the possibility of parole.