After months of motions, calls to the media, and the ensuing circus surrounding his trial, Scott Roeder will finally "have his day in court." This morning, January 22nd, 2010, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Roeder’s trial for the first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller begins with opening statements.
Since May, we have heard much about Dr. Tiller, his practice, and his life. Dr. Tiller’s clinic was bombed in 1986, was part of the "Summer of Mercy" in 1991, and he was shot in both arms in 1993 by Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon. He and his staff, going about day-to-day life, were regularly followed by anti-choice forces, protesting their homes, leafleting their neighbors, and digging through their trash. Websites were dedicated to following Dr. Tiller, his staff, and his volunteers. For several years, he had private security for both his clinic and himself. They attended church with him for a while. But he stood unprotected, living as a normal Wichitan, when Scott Roeder cruelly shot Dr. Tiller as he ushered at the church he had attended for years.
We have also heard much about Roeder, his personal life, and his beliefs. His ex-wife, Lindsey, said he was quite normal when they were married. But in the early 90s, he started to change. He became obsessed with a televangelist, sending him the money they needed for their young family. He eventually moved out, and in 1996, a police officer pulled him over and found explosives in the trunk of his car. A court found him guilty of criminal use of explosives, but the search of his car was illegal and the conviction dropped.
He has been involved with the most radical of anti-choice activists: he visited Shannon while she was in jail in Topeka for shooting Dr. Tiller; he spent time with Regina Dinwiddie, one of the first people tried under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act; he has been in regular contact with David Leach, publisher of Prayer & Action News which included writings from Roeder, and who reprinted the Army of God manual.
In the days before he traveled to Wichita, witnesses at the Aid to Women abortion clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, saw him running away after gluing the locks of the clinic, though the FBI did not investigate.
Thursday evening, 8 men and 6 women had been seated, most of them over 40 according to Ron Sylvester of the Wichita Eagle. Friday will see a few final motions, the jury being sworn in, and opening statements. It will also see Dinwiddie, Leach, Donald Spitz, and other activists for anti-abortion terrorism out in force and in the courtroom to support Roeder.
Dr. Tiller’s family is not expected to be in the courtroom though friends, including former clinic employees and escorts, will be there. After all, this trial is about murder, the murder of a man who helped thousands of women, who contributed to his community, who was involved in his church, and who trusted women.