Crime & Courts

Roeder's defense team subpoenas Kline

Although Phill Kline condemned violence, he may not be able to avoid being linked to the killing of the abortion provider he pursued as Kansas attorney general.

Scott Roeder's public defender said Tuesday that he has subpoenaed Kline to testify at the trial scheduled next week in the killing of George Tiller.

Lawyer Mark Rudy said the defense would ask Kline to testify about his attempts to prosecute Tiller.

"We want him to talk about the factual basis of where his investigation led and how that information was disseminated to the public, including Mr. Roeder," Rudy said.

Kline said he would not be testifying voluntarily.

"I have received a subpoena by mail and will comply with my legal obligation to appear," Kline said in a statement. "I still 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 toward Dr. Tiller."

Roeder has publicly acknowledged shooting Tiller. But his defense could use Kline's testimony to try to show that Roeder was driven by a belief that he was stopping illegal abortions.

Rudy would not elaborate on what role Kline's testimony would play in Roeder's defense.

Such evidence could be used to allow the defense to ask jurors to consider a charge less severe than first-degree murder.

Those charges may include voluntary manslaughter, defined by Kansas law as the "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force."

Roeder has said he shot Tiller to protect the lives of fetuses.

A conviction of voluntary manslaughter could send Roeder to prison for four to six years, compared to a life sentence for murder.

Tiller's lawyers had said before his shooting last May that Kline's four-year investigation into the doctor's late-term abortion practices served to enflame the emotions of abortion opponents. The lawyers feared for Tiller's safety, and their own, before he was shot dead in the lobby of his church the morning of May 31.

While abortion opponents joined Kline in quickly condemning Tiller's killing, some groups also claimed injustice when a jury found the doctor not guilty of criminal charges two months before his death.

Tiller was acquitted of 19 misdemeanor charges relating to financial arrangements in performing late-term abortions in a case brought by Steve Six, the current state attorney general.

Barry Disney, who prosecuted that case, also has received a subpoena from Roeder's defense, Six's office said Tuesday.

Kline began investigating Tiller three months after taking office as attorney general in 2003.

Two months after losing re-election in November 2006, and three weeks before leaving office, Kline filed criminal charges claiming that Tiller broke the law in providing late-term abortions.

A Sedgwick County judge dismissed the charges, saying that Kline didn't have authority to prosecute cases here without the permission of District Attorney Nola Foulston.

Foulston is leading Roeder's prosecution.