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Is killing an abortion doctor manslaughter?

Scott Roeder, 51, is seen in his booking photo in Wichita, Kansas.
Wichita Police Department via Getty Images
Scott Roeder, 51, is seen in his booking photo in Wichita, Kansas.

The judge overseeing the trial of a Kansas man charged with first degree murder for killing an abortion doctor has agreed to hear an unusual argument. Defense lawyers say the suspect's act constitutes voluntary manslaughter, not murder. Under state law, willful killings motivated by "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force” carry sentences of fewer than five years in prison. If convicted of first degree murder, the suspect would likely be sentenced to life in prison. Does the defendant's intention—protecting the future life of the unborn—justify his decision to take another man's life?

The judge overseeing the trial of a Kansas man charged with first degree murder for killing an abortion doctor has agreed to hear an unusual argument. Defense lawyers say the suspect's act constitutes voluntary manslaughter, not murder. Under state law, willful killings motivated by "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force” carry sentences of fewer than five years in prison. If convicted of first degree murder, the suspect would likely be sentenced to life in prison. Does the defendant's intention—protecting the future life of the unborn—justify his decision to take another man's life?

Guests:

Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas Moore Society

Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation

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