15 Things I Took From Scott Roeder’s Trial

I'm the guy in blue looking like something has gone wrong. I may or may not be talking to a producer. (Courtesy: Travis Heying, Wichita Eagle.)

A year ago, I walked away from Justin Thurber’s capital murder trial physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  I’d seen and heard so much I couldn’t tell KWCH viewers, and though I explained nearly every moment in court through an online blog, it still didn’t seem like I’d expressed everything.

The day after the trial, I saw colleague Ron Sylvester’s web article on what he’d learned from the trial.  I found myself agreeing with pretty much every point the Wichita Eagle’s court reporter made.  So…I’m stealing the idea.

Scott Roeder’s murder trial drew national and even international attention.  The man accused of murdering one of the most well-known abortion providers in America, Dr. George Tiller, took the stand in his own defense.  Roeder admitted to killing Dr. Tiller, but denied murdering him.  He wanted a platform to advocate killing abortion providers, but also wanted a mere manslaughter charge for doing so.  The pro-choice and anti-abortion activists of this country watched Roeder’s trial knowing very well it could shape the issue’s debate for the foreseeable future.

I got to cover it…crime to verdict.

I don’t think court reporters enjoy covering death and suffering (at least, I don’t).  A crime that ruins or even ends a victim’s life isn’t something to be relished.  I think the process of justice is more what interests us, whatever the jury decides that may be.


  1. There are extremists on both sides of the abortion issue.  I think there can be a stereotype that extremists only exist in the anti-abortion world.  Not true.  One man told a colleague he was threatening violence if Roeder was acquitted.
  2. Desk jobs are tougher than I thought.  How in the world can someone sit in a chair for 8+ hours a day and walk away with a tight back?  I now know the answer to this question.  What the hell?
  3. “Nice shot, Scott.”  Though Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said he didn’t support Roeder’s actions, one of his followers carried a sign with this message around the Sedgwick County Courthouse.  A photographer from the Fox affiliate in Kansas City noticed it.
  4. Roeder’s matter-of-factness on the stand as he described killing Dr. Tiller was chilling.  I described it on air as though he was talking about his drive to work.  Prosecutors called it “chillingly horrific.”
  5. I cut off everything outside the trial.  No sports page, no checking my bank account online, no Facebook…okay, maybe a little Facebook.
  6. Defense attorneys were aware of the wide-ranging effects the Roeder trial could have, but they couldn’t allow themselves to consider that.  I wonder if that still weighed heavily on their minds.
  7. (Continuum of #6) Defense attorney Mark Rudy’s voice quivered as he gave closing arguments.  I thought I was making this up in my head, but several other reporters at the courthouse said they heard it, too.
  8. My abortion beliefs have not changed.  I’m not going to share what my beliefs are, but this case and this trial did nothing to change them.
  9. A pen.  Yes, I took a pen from Judge James Fleetwood’s courtroom (the media room for the trial), and I now feel the need to get him a whole box of new pens.
  10. Scott Roeder will never regret his actions.
  11. During the entire trial and for several days after the verdict, my only dreams were of the trial.  I can only assume this is what the actual players in the trial experienced, but on a far more intense level.
  12. I believe Roeder planned to return to Burlington, Kansas, to retrieve the Taurus .22 caliber handgun he used to kill Dr. Tiller for reasons other than what he said in court.  Roeder testified he wanted to get the gun back just to keep it as a part of his gun collection.  For a man who said he was so against harming anyone other than Tiller, this doesn’t make sense.  A child could have found the gun he buried in a large dirt pile.  Roeder wanted this gun as a trophy.
  13. I was angry when Dr. Tiller was killed.  This is no reflection of my beliefs on abortion.  It’s just something you feel sometimes as a reporter.  No different than covering a child abuse case or a rape case or any other story with a victim who didn’t deserve the crime they suffered.
  14. My attitude was probably considered “testy” by the end of the trial.  I’m thankful for coworkers who understand when I say (with less tact than normal), “Yeah, whatever,”…I really mean, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”
  15. It’s not over.  Though I have no factual information to base this on, I don’t believe for a second that Wichita is finished as one of the nation’s hotbeds in the abortion controversy.

Thanks for your time reading this blog post.  Feel free to comment or join the discussion.



4 Responses to “15 Things I Took From Scott Roeder’s Trial”

  1. Cathy Judy Says:

    Nice snapshot of a hard time for many. Proud to know you well.

  2. Denise Eck Says:

    Well said, and an appropriate forum in which to say it. Your coverage was excellent.

  3. Annie Says:

    You are quite gifted in your abilities. I hope the day does not come that you can no longer do so for us.

    I hope and pray that in time the bad dreams will fade away for all those who have been so deeply affected by all of this.

    Lastly, after reading this, I felt the quiver in your voice.

  4. The Dirt Rule Doesn’t Apply…And Getting Angry « Cliff's Notes Says:

    […] talked about being angry as a reporter.  Like I mentioned after covering Scott Roeder’s murder trial, there are times a story infuriates you because of a somewhat rare combination.  Something so […]

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