03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Vigilante Injustice in Kansas?

Apparently relying upon the learned opinions of Justice Charles Bronson, a Kansas judge is considering allowing the murderer of Dr. George Tiller to defend himself by claiming that "he believed he was saving unborn children". (NY Times 1/12/10) First, it is important to remember that Dr. Tiller was engaged in legal activity (no matter how offensive it may be to some), and he was killed, not while engaged in such activity, but while attending church. Even if the defendant had killed someone engaged in criminal activity, such as a serial murderer, the defense would not be available unless the victim were actually engaged in the illegal activity at the time -- someone was in imminent danger. We do not permit our citizens to go around meting out their own form of justice.

A premeditated murder cannot be converted into voluntary manslaughter merely because the murderer views his cause as righteous. Just think how that argument would be received in defense of the 9/11 terrorists. There are so many other examples. Could the defense be asserted by a person who kills a gun manufacturing executive, because he believes in doing so he will prevent more deaths? Could an anti-death penalty advocate claim the defense in killing an executioner?

Mr. Roeder's motive may well be relevant at the time of sentencing, but it cannot serve as a defense to a premeditated murder of an innocent man engaged in legal conduct. Furthermore, the precedent that such a ruling would create could endanger all doctors engaged in performing abortions, as well as the unlimited scenario alluded to above. Anti-abortion passion runs strong in this country, but murder cannot be countenanced nor defended in its name.