Kline subpoenaed for Roeder trial

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline said Tuesday that he has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial of the man charged with killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller.

The subpoena was issued by the defense team of Scott Roeder, whose trial is scheduled to begin on Monday in Wichita. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, is charged with first-degree murder in the May 31 shooting death of Tiller inside his church and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers.

“I have received a subpoena and will comply with my legal obligation to appear,” Kline said in an e-mail to The Kansas City Star. “I believe in the rule of law, whereas Mr. Roeder has allegedly decided to take the law into his own hands. I have always condemned any act of violence against Dr. Tiller and still do.”

The subpoena comes amid speculation that Roeder will attempt to use a “defense of others” argument at his trail, saying he killed Tiller to protect the lives of unborn babies. Under Kansas law, deadly force is justified if it is used to prevent someone from the “imminent use of unlawful force.”

Roeder said in a phone interview from the Sedgwick County Jail on Monday that he could not discuss his defense strategy. But in an interview in July, Roeder said that according to Kansas statutes, a homicide could be justified if committed in the defense of self and others. He said his lawyer had told him that attempting such a defense could be a problem because “the party lethal force is used against has to be engaged in unlawful activity,” and abortion is legal.

But abortion opponents for years have accused Tiller of performing illegal late-term abortions. Kline, one of Tiller’s most vocal critics, launched an investigation of Tiller in 2003, filing 30 criminal charges against him in late 2006. Those charges, however, were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by a Sedgwick County judge who said Kline needed District Attorney Nola Foulston’s permission to prosecute cases in that county. Foulston is the prosecutor in Roeder’s case.

In 2007, Kline’s successor, Paul Morrison, filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller, accusing him of having an illegal financial relationship with a physician who authorized late-term abortions that Tiller performed. Tiller was acquitted of all charges at a jury trial in March, but abortion foes — including Roeder — said that the trial was “a sham.”

Kline now teaches law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The day Tiller was killed, Kline sent a statement to reporters saying he was “stunned by this lawless and violent act, which must be condemned and should be met with the full force of law.”