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Suspect in doctor's killing eyes defense

The suspect in the killing of abortion provider George Tiller is in talks with a prominent attorney who represents anti-abortion protesters and has long advocated justifiable homicide as a legal defense in such cases.

Scott Roeder, 51, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges in the May 31 shooting death of Tiller in the foyer of his Wichita church. The Kansas City, Mo., man has refused to discuss his case, but he has told The Associated Press that Tiller's killing was justified to save “the lives of unborn children.”

Roeder has court-appointed defense attorneys, but he apparently has now turned to Michael Hirsh, the lawyer who represented Paul Hill on appeal for killing a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Hill was executed in 2003 after the Florida Supreme Court rejected Hirsh's argument that the judge should have allowed Hill to present to jurors his claim that the killings were justified to prevent abortions.

Hirsh confirmed he has spoken once to Roeder in recent weeks about representing him, but he has not yet been retained. Roeder's trial is scheduled for Sept. 21, though public defender Mark Rudy said he anticipates filing for a continuance.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in denying Hill's appeal that his motivation would not change the outcome of the case. But Hirsh discounted the suggestion that if a jury acquitted Roeder of murder based on such a defense, it would lead to an open season on abortion doctors.

“It has been open season on unborn children for over 30 years. I think on abortionists there will be a bag limit,” Hirsh said.

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