WICHITA — On the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States, prosecutors Friday morning will begin presenting evidence that Scott Roeder killed one of the doctors performing the procedure.
A jury of eight men and six women were seated today and will be sworn in Friday, which also happens to be the date when the nation's high court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973.
Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert plans to swear in the jury, most of whom are over the age of 40, after court resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.
Lawyers began questioning 47 jurors today about whether they could be impartial in the first-degree murder trial of Scott Roeder.
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Roeder, 51, is charged with killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller on May 31. Seven days of jury selection ended after 5 p.m. this afternoon with public questioning and lawyers making their final strike.
Prosecutor Kim Parker asked jurors if they had any religious beliefs or philosophies that would prevent them from convicting Roeder of first-degree murder if the evidence warrants it.
"That is probably the most important question we can ask," Parker said.
Row by row, each juror said "No."
Jurors were also asked if they could decide the case without outside distractions, either from publicity surrounding the case, or questions from friends, family or others.
"Someone came up to me last night and asked, 'What case are you on?' " one woman answered. "I just told them I was on a criminal case. I just walked away, and that's what I would do."
Parker also asked if people should be held responsible for their voluntary actions.
"I question that I can say yes or no to that," one man said. "It depends on the circumstances of the case."
"Would you decide on the law the judge gives you?" Parker asked.
"Yes," he said. "I can do that."
Roeder's public defender Mark Rudy talked to the jurors about the defendant's right not to testify, or his "right to remain silent" and the presumption of innocence.
"This isn't an exact science," Rudy said of jury selection. "We go to continuing legal education seminars, and sometimes we'll hear experts talk about jury selection. They'll say, 'look at their body language, where they went to school, did they scratch their head funny.' The truth is we'll probably know as much about you at the end of this as we do anyone."
Rudy talked about individual questioning over the past week.
"We talked to you about private issues, things maybe you wouldn't discuss with your own spouse," Rudy said. He then asked them again if they had any reservations about being fair. No one said they had anything to add.
Wilbert then conducted the final strikes behind closed doors, in his chambers. That included any potential challenges on the basis of race, gender and religion.
A jury is expected to be seated this afternoon.
Evidence would begin Friday: the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States.