Jurors Could Get Tiller Case Friday

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Thursday, March 26

10:15 AM Update

Attorneys for Dr. Tiller rests their case after less than an hour of testimony this morning. Jurors are released for the day as attorneys on both sides prepare for closing arguments on Friday morning.

Once again, Tiller's defense team renews a request for acquittal, saying the prosecution lacks the evidence needed for a conviction in the case.

Prosecutors say the evidence is there. They say Tiller's attorneys trained Neuhaus on the law requiring a second opinion, and that she profited financially through her work for Tiller. In 2003, investigators say Tiller and Neuhaus worked together exclusively.

Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney says, "Dr. Tiller's office controlled when and where Dr. Neuhaus saw his patients."

"Dr. Neuhaus worked for Dr. Tiller," Disney says. "She was incorporated into the office just like an employee."

Disney points out that during testimony, Dr. Tiller said, "I would think if one is going to join your organization, it would take more than one phone call." Disney calls the judge's attention to the phrase 'join your organization.'

Defense attorney Lee Thompson claims Disney is asking the court and jury to re-write the laws of Kansas. He says Tiller was using leymans terms when he used certain words or phrases suggesting a financial relationship between the two doctors. In no way, Thompson says, was Tiller trying to imply or lead jurors to believe that he was Neuhaus' employer.

Judge Clark Owens II says the prosecution's argument of a legal affiliation between Neuhaus and Tiller is weak. However, he says there is more evidence of a financial relationship. Judge Owens clarifies these are not his personal opinions, but a review of the facts as they apply to the laws of the state.

Owens says he will not grant the defense's motion for acquittal. However, he says he will instruct jurors they should only consider the financial accusations brought by the state.

Court will resume at 9:00 Friday morning. Attorneys will present closing arguments before the jury begins deliberations.

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10:00 AM Update

Prosecutors questioning defense witness Rachael Pirner say the KSBHA, even if they recommended Dr. Neuhaus be Tiller's consulting physician, never addressed the issue of a financial or legal relationship. Prosecutors contend the KSBHA only suggested Neuhaus to cover the Kansas phsyician aspect of the two doctor rule on late-term abortions.

However, Pirner believes the Buening wouldn't divorce the financial and legal aspect of the law from the Kansas physician portion. She believes Buening, in suggesting Neuhaus, would have done so to cover all aspects of the law.

Pirner says she believes Buening had the authority as then-executive director of the KSBHA to make such a recommendation to Tiller.

Pirner says if the board believed Tiller and Neuhaus were operating in violation of the law, they would have started an investigation. However, Pirner says no questions were raised until former Attorney General Phill Kline requested records in 2003.

Pirner leaves the stand after only a few more questions, at which point Tiller's defense team rests its case.

The attorneys will now prepare closing statements, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

Because of the complicated legal nature of the case, attorneys are requeseting the rest of the day to prepare their closing arguments. Jurors are sent home after less than an hour of testimony Thursday.

Court will resume at 9:00 Friday with closing arguments. A verdict could be reached by Friday afternoon.

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9:00 AM Update

Testimony resumes in the fourth day of trial for Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. He faces 19 misdemeanors, alleging he violated the state's late-term abortion law requiring a second opinion from a financially and legally independent physician.

Prosecutors maintain Tiller's consulting physician, Lawrence-area doctor Ann Kristin Neuhaus, essentially acted as one of Tiller's employees by using his clinic to do consultations and taking advice from his former legal counsel.

One of the attorneys who approved Tiller's relationship with Neuhaus began her testimony late Wednesday afternoon. Rachael Pirner was one of Tiller's attorneys in 1999, helping facilitate - among other things - adoptions for some of Tiller's patients who chose not to terminate pregnancy.

Pirner told jurors yesterday that Tiller called her in June 1999 to say he had spoken with Larry Buening, then-executive director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, who reportedly suggested he use Dr. Neuhaus as his consulting physician. Tiller took notes of the conversation, which were shared with jurors Wednesday morning.

Defense attorneys have not indicated whether they intend to call Buening as a witness. Buening denies any such conversation with Tiller took place.

Pirner said this morning that after Neuhaus began consulting for Tiller, the KSBHA never objected to the relationship.

The debate over a consulting physician began in the late 90s when medical authorities began interpreting the state's second-opinion law on late-term abortions to require a Kansas doctor sign off on the procedure.

Pirner said Tiller's legal team, along with Neuhaus' attorney, discussed whether there would be any conflict with the law if Neuhaus gave second opinions on Tiller's late-term abortion patients. It was agreed there was no financial or legal connection between the two.

Prosecutors say even if there was no connection at the start of Neuhaus' consultations in 1999, the relationship evolved over the years. They say Tiller controlled when and where Neuhaus saw patients.

Tiller told jurors yesterday Neuhaus never acted under his control, and was always free to make her own diagnosis. He said she occasionally declined to approve of a late-term abortion, and the patient was released. Tiller said Neuhaus was always paid by patients, and never his clinic. He said there was no financial punishment for her if she declined consent.

Defense attorneys have argued it is inappropriate for the Attorney General's Office to charge Tiller with a crime, when the head of a state agency such as the KSBHA suggested Neuhaus and Tiller work together.

Stay with KAKE News and KAKE.com for updates throughout the day.


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