On the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that gave constitutional protection for abortions, prosecutors this morning will begin presenting evidence that Scott Roeder killed George Tiller because he performed them.
A jury of eight men and six women were seated Thursday afternoon and will begin hearing evidence this morning — 37 years to the day after the high court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert plans to swear in the jury, most of whom are over the age of 40.
Roeder, 51, is charged with the May 31 killing of Tiller, one of the few physicians in the country who performed late-term abortions.
Over the past week, lawyers narrowed the jury pool to 47 in individual questioning of jurors privately, before opening the jury selection to the public briefly on Thursday.
"We talked to you about private issues, things maybe you wouldn't discuss with your own spouse," public defender Mark Rudy told the remaining jurors.
Prosecutor Kim Parker asked jurors whether 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."
Roeder also stands accused of aggravated assault involving two members of Tiller's church, where the doctor was shot just as Sunday services began.
Parker also asked jurors whether they could decide the case without outside distractions, either from news reports or questions from friends, family or others. The trial is attracting national attention.
"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 whether 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."
"Would you decide the case on anything other than based on the evidence?" Parker asked.
"Absolutely not," the man answered.
For the defense, Rudy talked to the jurors about Roeder's constitutional 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."
Wilbert conducted the final strikes behind closed doors, in his chambers. That included any potential challenges on the basis of race, gender and religion.
The judge seated 14 jurors, including two alternates.
At the end of evidence, Wilbert said he would draw two names out of a hat to determine the alternates. The other 12 will deliberate over a verdict.