- (Photo: AP Images / Jeff Tuttle, Pool)
The 51-year-old man who admitted to killing late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was found guilty of first-degree murder on Friday.
The jury reached the verdict against Scott Roeder after only 37 minutes of deliberation.
During closing arguments on Friday, defense attorney Mark Rudy had appealed to jurors, saying Roeder had only shot the doctor last year out of a conviction that he would be preventing "more carnage on the unborn," as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
"No defendant can be convicted based on his convictions," Rudy said.
A Kansas City native, Roeder said Thursday that he had been thinking about killing Tiller, who was one of the few late-term abortion practitioners in the country, for more than a decade.
He decided to take action at Reform Lutheran Church, where Tiller worshipped. On May 31, 2009, Roeder walked up to the abortion doctor, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
"If I didn't do it the babies were going to die the next day," Roeder said Thursday.
Sedgwick County, Kan., District Judge Warren Wilbert did not allow the jury to consider convicting Roeder with the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is defined as "an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified."
Tiller's family called the jury's guilty verdict "just."
He was also convicted on two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two ushers who tried to stop him after the shooting.
Though Roeder describes himself as a born-again Christian, several prominent Christians have come out since the murder condemning the violent act. While Tiller was the target of many pro-life protests, most groups do not justify his killing.
"[V]iolence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause," Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., a preeminent evangelical, said at the time of the murder. "The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy."
Following the murder, pro-life organization Operation Rescue released a pledge to engage only in "peaceful" protests "free of any actions or words that would appear violent or hateful" – principles that the organization say are "Christ-centered."
Roeder plans to appeal the decision.