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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

November-24-08

Hearings Show Tiller May Have Been Trapped

Pre-trial hearings took place last week in the case against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller demonstrated the weakness of the prosecutionís case against Tiller. Tiller's attorneys filed a motion in September asking the court to either suppress evidence or dismiss the charges against Tiller because of alleged "outrageous" misconduct of the preliminary investigation into Tiller's practice by former Kansas state Attorney General Phil Kline and state attorney Eric Rucker.

Defense attorneys used the hearings to question the motivations of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in investigating Tiller. The defense claims that Kline targeted Tiller without first having evidence of illegal activity and that the evidence against him was obtained as a result of abuse of power.

According to the Wichita Eagle Kline's former investigator, Jared Reed testified that "my personal opinion was that they were willing to do whatever it takes to get a conviction against an abortion provider, up to and including breaking the law." Testimony from other former staff support this idea. Former Chief Investigator Thomas Williams testified that Kline had planned an armed raid on Tillerís clinic to seize records. Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Rucker testified that he had asked an attorney from the Texas-based anti-abortion group Life Dynamics, Inc. for assistance in recruiting other states to investigate abortion providers, including Dr. Tiller, according to the Associated Press.

Charges were filed against Tiller in 2007 that alleged he had violated a state law on late term abortions requiring a second opinion from an independent physician. Tiller is one of the few late-term abortion providers in the US that serves women with troubled pregnancies and complicated health problems.

Testimony from Kline's former Assistant Attorney General Stephen Maxwell indicated that he was not aware of a complainant in the case. A confidential memo Maxwell wrote in July 2003 suggested alternatives for the attorney general's office to use in pursuing a case against Tiller since there was not a complainant. These alternatives included a recommendation to use state statistics to identify and investigate instances where Tiller may have failed to report sexual abuse, according the Wichita Eagle.

The case of a 10 year-old girl who came from another state and obtained an abortion at Tiller's clinic has become central in Tiller's defense argument. The attorney general's office has long claimed that Tiller did not report the possible rape against this child as legally required. Defense lawyers have documents that show that a letter from a prosecutor's office in the girlís home state concerning the case was presented at Tiller's clinic, that rape charges had already been filed against a relative at the time, and that Tiller reported the abortion to Kansas Child Protective Services, according to the Wichita Eagle. Klineís office had used the girlís case as the basis for requesting Tillerís medical records even though they were aware of the out-of-state prosecution.

Pretrial hearings will resume in January.

Media Resources: NARAL Pro-Choice America, Feminist Daily Newswire 10/21/08; Daily Women's Health Policy Report 10/20/08; Wichita Eagle 11/20/08, 11/21/08; Associated Press 11/19/08


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