A man who said he killed prominent Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in order to save the lives of unborn children was convicted Friday of murder.
The jury deliberated for just 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder in the May 31 shooting death.
He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years when he is sentenced March 9. Prosecutor Nola Foulston said she would pursue a so-called "Hard 50" sentence, which would require Roeder to serve at least 50 years before he can be considered for parole.
Roeder had confessed publicly before the trial and admitted again on the witness stand that he shot Tiller in the head in the foyer of the church where the doctor was serving as an usher. He testified he felt the lives of unborn children were in "immediate danger" because of Tiller.
Roeder also was convicted of aggravated assault for pointing a gun at two ushers at Tiller's Wichita church after the shooting.
Roeder sat straightforward as the verdict was read, showing no visible reaction as he moved his head toward the judge and to the jury as each juror confirmed the verdict.
Tiller was one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions, and his Wichita clinic was the focus of many protests. It also had been under investigation by a former state district attorney who accused Tiller of skirting Kansas' abortion laws.
Roeder's attorneys were hoping to get a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for Roeder, a defense that would have required them to show that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified.
But after hearing Roeder testify, District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that his lawyers failed to show that Tiller posed an imminent threat and the jury could not consider such a verdict.
Prosecutors were careful during the first few days of testimony to avoid the subject of abortion and to focus on the specifics of the shooting. Wilbert said he did not want the trial to become a debate on abortion, but he did allow Roeder to discuss his views on the subject because his attorneys said they were integral to their case.