Kansas House leaders called on Attorney General Paul Morrison on Friday to reinstate misdemeanor charges sought by his predecessor against Wichita abortion provider George Tiller.
“Members of the Kansas Legislature have been inundated with telephone calls, petitions, letters and e-mails from Kansans across the state, asking that we direct the attorney general to proceed with the criminal case against Dr. Tiller,” said Speaker Pro Tem Don Dahl, R-Hillsboro. He added he was “very disappointed in the lack of action by the state’s chief law enforcement officer.”
Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, and Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, also signed a March 19 letter asking that Morrison allow a jury to hear the charges. It was released to the public Friday.
Morrison responded Friday with a letter that said his office continues to investigate Tiller, with an assistant attorney general assigned to the case full time.
He said he was committed to enforcing the law based on fact. He noted that “criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and added, “I can assure you that if I find evidence that a crime has been committed, I will file new charges against Dr. Tiller.”
He said an announcement on the case should be made soon.
Before he left office in December, former Attorney General Phill Kline alleged that Tiller performed 15 late-term abortions on patients ages 10 to 22 and failed to properly report the details to state health officials.
Kline filed 30 misdemeanor charges in Sedgwick County, but District Attorney Nola Foulston contended he did not have jurisdiction. Sedgwick County Judge Paul Clark agreed, and the charges were dismissed.
In January, a special prosecutor appointed by Kline asked the Kansas Supreme Court to reinstate the charges. In February, at Morrison’s urging, the court dismissed the request.
State Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, earlier this week signed an ethics complaint against Clark for dismissing the charges.
Both Clark and Foulston did not return a call for comment Friday.
One of Tiller’s lawyers, Dan Monnat, said of the legislators’ letter: “Dr. Tiller is innocent of any wrongdoing. We always said that Dr. Tiller would cooperate with professional prosecutors who don’t have some skewed political agenda, and he has done and will do that. On the other hand, it’s important that the different branches of government maintain their independence and that the Legislature not try to coerce a political prosecution.”
Also Friday, about 35 people prayed in front of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, seeking reinstatement of the charges.
“We’re looking for the man to be tried and found guilty or not guilty of committing illegal third-trimester abortions,” said the Rev. Rob Rotola, pastor of Word of Life church. “These are egregious offenses.”
Contributing: Tim Potter and Ron Sylvester of The Eagle
Reach Christina M. Woods at 316-269-6791 or [email protected].
All content © 2007 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.
By CHRISTINA M. WOODS
The Wichita Eagle