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Prosecution Rests Case in Tiller Abortion Trial

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against abortion provider George Tiller after calling as their lone witness the consulting physician who provided the second opinion required by Kansas law for late-term abortions.

Tiller’s lawyers were to begin presenting their evidence today. They will try to show that Tiller had no improper financial or legal connections with Ann Kristin Neuhaus, from whom he regularly sought second opinions on late-term abortions.

The defense moved for an acquittal after the state rested Tuesday, arguing the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to support a guilty verdict.

Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens rejected the motion, finding there was adequate evidence of financial ties between Tiller and Neuhaus to send the question to the jury. Owens questioned the adequacy of evidence of a legal affiliation between the doctors, but said he would address that matter in jury instructions.

Tiller went on trial Monday on 19 misdemeanor charges stemming from abortions he performed at his Wichita clinic in 2003. He is accused of breaking a state law requiring that an independent Kansas physician sign off on any late-term abortion.

Prosecutors described Neuhaus as essentially a Tiller employee whose only income at the time came from patients she saw at Tiller’s clinic.

The defense argued she only came to his clinic for the convenience and safety of patients, pointing out she paid for her own expenses, such as malpractice insurance and travel costs. Tiller’s patients paid Neuhaus a cash consultation fee of $250 to $300.

Prosecutors on Tuesday tried to cast doubt on Neuhaus’ testimony that such consultations were common between physicians by bringing up a discussion she had with Tiller about her fees when he was recruiting her. The prosecution was trying to show that independent physicians don’t discuss their fees with other doctors for referrals.

But Neuhaus insisted she could not remember whether she had ever discussed with Tiller her consulting fee, even after being shown notes Tiller purportedly took during a conversation over her fees.

Neuhaus acknowledged in later testimony that she had “an agreement” with Tiller whereby she would charge patients an agreed amount and he would start referring his abortion patients to her.

Neuhaus first testified about her relationship with Tiller in a 2006 inquisition under a grant of immunity from former Attorney General Phill Kline, whose investigation of Tiller formed the basis for the current charges against him.

The current attorney general, Stephen Six, also granted her immunity two months ago.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Dan Monnat, Neuhaus said she sometimes declined to concur with a late-term abortion. She testified she was not aware of any abortion that Tiller performed after she refused to consent to it, but added she would have no way of knowing.

Neuhaus acknowledged that she had restrictions on her medical license after a disciplinary complaint was filed, but jurors were told few details other than it involved anesthesia practices.

Neuhaus was accused in 2001 of performing an abortion after a patient withdrew permission. Under an agreement with the State Board of Healing Arts, she changed her consent forms and addressed the board’s concerns about how she kept records and administered sedatives.

All content © 2009 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.

By ROXANA HEGEMAN
Associated Press