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Tiller Abortion Hearing Delayed Until January

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Update - Thursday, 3:45pm

Attorneys for Dr. George Tiller confirm a significant delay in courtroom proceedings started on Monday of this week.

Following a closed hearing to discuss anticipated testimony from former Attorney General Paul Morrison, attorneys agreed to delay the remainder of the hearing until January 6, 2009.

The hearing comes on the heels of a motion filed in September by Tiller's attorneys, seeking to dismiss Morrison's 19 misdemeanor charges against the doctor. Morrison alleged Tiller performed late-term abortions without seeking an independent second opinion.

Defense attorney Dan Monnat says the delay is a result of several legal and scheduling conflicts. He says the decision to delay was made so that all parties involved would have an opportunity to hear every witness and piece of evidence in the case.

Monnat says he expects the hearing to resume where it left off today, with Kline and Morrison taking the stand in January.

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Update - Thursday, Noon

Court is in recess until Tuesday morning. Attorneys will discuss the pending testimony of former AG Paul Morrison behind closed doors this afternoon.

Former AG Phill Kline was scheduled to take the stand Friday. Kline testified on Monday as to his role in the investigation of Dr. George Tiller. Kline was excused from the stand to attend an out-of-town commitment, with plans to return to the witness stand tomorrow.

Attorneys say the case is still moving forward, despite the delays. Kline will resume his testimony next week, with Morrison taking the stand on or around Wednesday.

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Update - Thursday, 10:45am

Steve Maxwell, an Assistant District Attorney in Reno County, once worked as Assistant Attorney General under Phill Kline. He was one of the prosecutors in the investigation into Dr. Tiller.

Maxwell was stationed in Baghdad for military service for a portion of the investigation.

Monnat is reviewing a number of memos and court documents filed in the case containing Maxwell's name.

Kline's office had to show evidence to a judge in order for him to sign off on the inquisition into Tiller. According to court transcripts, Maxwell told the judge he believed Kansas was a state that did not properly supervise or review abortion practices. He reportedly told the judge Kansas was seen as a state where you could go if you couldn't get an abortion anywhere else.

Although Tiller's attorneys say the doctor was unjustly targeted in the investigation by an overzealous AG's office, Maxwell says it wasn't until 2005 he knew Tiller's name. He says the AG's office had evidence by 2004 supporting allegations that laws were not being followed, but that the office did not have specific names until later.

Monnat says prosecutors have gone out of their way in attempts to learn some of the names of Tiller's patients. Maxwell says the privacy of patient records was a concern during the investigation -- that the names of patients were not of interest, merely the details of the procedure they received. The judge who signed off on the inquisition said he was also very concerned about protecting patient confidentiality.

Maxwell reportedly told the judge it was not necessary to obtain patient names, but that if it did become necessary, the matter and methods could be taken up at a later time.

However, Monnat then points to a subpoena filed by Kline's office. The subpoena requested customer information from a La Quinta Inn on East Kellogg, near Dr. Tiller's clinic. Monnat has accused the AG's office of misconduct in the past, alleging they sought records from the hotel where some of Dr. Tiller's patients stayed in an attempt to match patient records with hotel records, thereby deriving the name of the patient.

Maxwell says it was known when the application for a subpoena was brought before a judge that the AG's office was seeking the names of minor children (under the age of 15) who received an abortion at Tiller's clinic. Maxwell says there was no attempt to hide that fact or deceive the judge.

Maxwell says this was done so they could attempt to cross-reference SRS records to determine whether child sexual abuse was being reported as required by law.

Maxwell says once the hotel records were obtained, he did not know what happened with them next. He said his understanding was that no particular patient was ever able to be identified through the records.

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Update - Thursday, 9:00am

Many anticipated today would be one of the most interesting days in an abortion battle playing out in Sedgwick County Court.

Former Attorney General Paul Morrison, who resigned amidst a sex scandal last year, was expected to take the stand today. Morrison filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Dr. George Tiller in 2007, alleging he failed to seek a second opinion from an independent, unaffiliated doctor before performing several late-term abortions.

Attorneys for Dr. Tiller say this morning Morrison will not testify until next week. There are several legal matters regarding his testimony that must first be discussed. Defense attorney Dan Monnat says those discussions will likely happen this afternoon behind closed doors.

Dr. Tiller has maintained his innocence since the beginning of an investigation launched by former Attorney General Phill Kline more than five years ago. Tiller's attorneys maintain the doctor was intentionally targeted by Kline, a pro-life Republican who was overzealous in his investigation. They say the current case against Dr. Tiller should be thrown out or evidence suppressed because of the conduct of prosecutors.

Morrison took over the investigation after Kline was voted out of office. Kline attempted to file 30 charges before leaving the AG's position, but they were quickly dismissed. Morrison filed 19 misdemeanors following what his office said was its own independent investigation. Morrison later resigned following an extra-marital affair. Tiller's attorneys say Morrison's mistress, who went on to work under Kline, influenced his decision to file charges.

Earlier this week, Monnat also said Morrison relied heavily on the investigation conduction by his predecessor - that the case was handed to Morrison "on a silver platter."

Tiller's attorneys maintain he has always followed state laws. Tiller has been accused in the past for failing to report cases of child sexual abuse and performing late-term abortions on women who did not qualify under the state's "substantial and irreversible damage to health" statute. He has never been successfully charged with those allegations, and previous attempts to bring charges through a citizen grand jury have failed.


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