Judge rejects Roeder’s motion to bar Hard 50 sentence

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Scott Roeder, convicted of killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, will be subject to a Hard 50 sentence when he is resentenced, after a Sedgwick County judge rejected a motion contending a change in state law should not to be applied to him.

Mark Rudy, chief attorney for the Sedgwick County Public Defender’s Office, argued during a hearing Friday that Roeder should be sentenced to 25 years to life, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Roeder’s sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years was among many vacated after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juries, not judges, must decide whether aggravating circumstances existed to warrant increasing the penalty for a crime above its mandatory minimum sentence.

The Kansas Legislature changed state law to reflect that ruling. Rudy argued the change was unconstitutional and should not be retroactive to Roeder’s case.

“The law (prosecutors) are trying to sentence him under didn’t exist in 2010, so he should default to the 25-to-life sentence. The state shouldn’t even be able to ask for 50 to life,” he said.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office said in a written response that legislative changes to the Hard 50 law were merely procedural, are constitutional and didn’t violate Roeder’s rights.

Sedgwick County District Court Judge Warren Wilbert rejected the motion, as well as another asking for a new trial based on a change in Kansas law that now defines conception as the beginning of life.

Roeder, 57, was convicted of first-degree murder in Tiller’s death and of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening to shoot two other men inside Reformation Lutheran Church on May 31, 2009. He testified that he decided to shoot Tiller because other attempts to stop the doctor from performing abortions had failed.

Rudy said he doesn’t expect Roeder to be resentenced until next summer at the earliest. When that happens, a new jury will decide whether Roeder’s crimes warrant a second Hard 50 sentence.

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