Scott Roeder, convicted in 2010 of murdering abortion care provider Dr. George Tiller, was re-sentenced last week and given a more lenient prison term.
Roeder will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of his life sentence.
“I was really shocked about today,” Roeder told the Associated Press after the hearing. “I was glad obviously to hear the sentence reduced, but I was looking forward to being another voice for the unborn—so I was disappointed in that respect.”
During the 2010 trial, Roeder admitted to killing Tiller and testified that he had no regrets.
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The 2010 jury convicted Roeder of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting death of Tiller in his church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder was originally sentenced by a judge to life with no chance of parole for 50 years, also known as a “hard 50.”
But a 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made it unconstitutional for certain criminal sentences to be imposed by judges instead of juries—giving Roeder an opportunity to petition the court for a new sentence.
A judge ruled in April that a new jury would decide if Roeder’s 50-year sentence was justified.
However, the state last week withdrew its request for the “hard 50” sentence, a week before the jury trial had been scheduled to begin. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told the Associated Press that prosecutors decided not to seek additional time due to Roeder’s declining health and to avoid “putting the community and the victim’s family and witnesses through another contested hearing.”
Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of the Wichita-based Trust Women Foundation, said in a statement that the organization was grateful there would be some kind of closure for Tiller’s family, and that the organization would continue to do the work that Tiller had championed.
“There is not a day at our clinics that we don’t remember Dr. Tiller and his dedication to women,” Burkhart said. “The extremist who murdered Dr. Tiller deserves the maximum sentence allowed by law.”
“Dr. Tiller’s legacy is reflected in everything we do at Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center clinics—from the time patients call us to the time they see us for their follow-up appointments,” Burkhart continued. “Dr. Tiller’s assassination most certainly left a hole in the reproductive rights movement, but we remain committed to this critical work in his honor and memory.”
There have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 185 arsons, 42 bombings, and thousands of other criminal incidents directed at abortion care providers between 1977 and 2015, according to the National Abortion Federation.