Yes, he bought a gun. Yes, he took target practice. Yes, he had learned about Dr. Tiller’s habits, his home address, his security precautions. And, yes, he shot Dr. Tiller last May 31 as Dr. Tiller stood inside his church.
“That is correct, yes,” Mr. Roeder told the jurors, in a calm, matter-of-fact voice.
But there was a twist.
Lawyers for Mr. Roeder, who provided the only testimony for the defense in a trial that has spanned several weeks, are hoping that jurors will consider Mr. Roeder’s motive: his growing opposition to abortion, which he deemed criminal and immoral, and his mounting sense that laws and prosecutors and other abortion opponents were never going to stop Dr. Tiller from performing them.
“I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children. I shot him,” he testified, adding at another point, “If I didn’t do it, the babies were going to die the next day.”
Was he remorseful? No, Mr. Roeder said without emotion. After the killing, he said, he felt “a sense of relief.”
And so, in a way, the hearing here, watched intensely by all sides of the abortion debate, turned into precisely what the presiding judge had said all along that it ought not to be — a trial over abortion.