The Wichita lawyer who Attorney General Phill Kline named as a special prosecutor in the George Tiller case is a longtime abortion opponent who supported Kline’s failed re-election bid.
Donald McKinney was admitted to the Kansas Bar Association in 1987. He is active and listed in good standing.
Kline called McKinney, a Democrat and brother of House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, a highly respected attorney.
McKinney could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
“This appointment of an independent special prosecutor will remove this investigation from a highly charged political process,” Kline said during a news conference Wednesday.
But Wichita lawyer Dan Monnat, one of Tiller’s lawyers, said of McKinney, “We’ve known him to protest outside Tiller’s clinic.”
Cheryl Sullenger, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said that within the last year she’s seen McKinney outside Tiller’s clinic “praying for the babies,” walking up and down the sidewalk. “He has a constitutional right to do that.”
His opposition to abortion shouldn’t disqualify him, she said. “I think you can have personal views on things and still conduct yourself professionally, and I think Mr. McKinney would do that.”
As for him being outside the clinic, she said: “I think it gives him a unique perspective when it comes to prosecuting this man. You don’t have to be neutral to do your job.”
Steve Joseph, a longtime Wichita lawyer, said that “in terms of the legal community, Don is politically and socially on the far-right fringe.”
During this fall’s attorney general’s race, McKinney was a leader of a group called Democrats for Kline, along with state Sen. Mark Gilstrap of Kansas City, Kan., and former state Rep. Charles Laird of Tecumseh.
In October, McKinney criticized The Eagle in front of its offices for not investigating 15-year-old, unproven allegations of sexual harassment against challenger Paul Morrison, and for an editorial criticizing statements Kline made at campaign events.
McKinney said the old charges raised serious questions about Morrison’s character, though two lawsuits filed by a former employee were dismissed and she received no damages.
In July 2001, McKinney represented local members of the group Operation Save America who took the city of Wichita to federal court after it blocked an anti-abortion parade outside Tiller’s clinic. A federal judge overturned the city’s action.
In May 1992, a year after the so-called “Summer of Mercy” anti-abortion protests in Wichita, McKinney urged City Council members to prohibit off-duty police officers from working as security guards at medical clinics. He also accused city leaders of spending thousands of dollars guarding clinics where abortions are performed.
A month later, he said a list of one council member’s campaign contributions showed “how the blood money of the abortionist has crept into the political process.” That council member is no longer in office.
Bill Townsley, president-elect of the Wichita Bar Association, said that he could not offer an official association comment but said McKinney is a member in good standing and participates in committees.
The disciplinary administrator’s office, an arm of the Kansas Supreme Court, has no record of disciplinary action or complaints against McKinney.
Contributing: Tim Potter of The Eagle; Associated Press
Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or [email protected]
All content © 2006 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.
By DEB GRUVER
The Wichita Eagle