Prosecution Rests In Tiller Trial

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

4:00 PM Update

Prosecutors rest their case after excusing Dr. Neuhaus from the stand. Dr. Tiller's attorneys immediately file a motion for acquittal -- asking Judge Clark Owens to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence on the part of the prosecution.

Prosecutors say even if Dr. Neuhaus never considered herself an employee of Dr. Tiller, he controlled enough of her actions at the clinic to qualify as such. Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney admits he otherwise lacks direct evidence of a financial affiliation.

Judge Owens says he will allow a jury to decide the case, and denies the motion filed by Tiller's attorneys.

Defense attorneys ask for permission to recess early. They will call their first witness tomorrow morning.

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3:30 PM Update

Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney takes a more direct and aggressive approach to questioning of Dr. Kristin Neuhaus Tuesday afternoon.

Neuhaus, calling Dr. Tiller's case a "political prosecution" begun by former Attorney General Phill Kline, continued to deny any wrongdoing on either her or Dr. Tiller's parts.

Tiller is charged with 19 misdemeanors alleging he and Neuhaus were financially affiliated at the time she gave second opinions on his late-term abortion patients. State laws require the doctors involved share no financial relationship.

Prosecutors gave Neuhaus immunity from prosecution if she agreed to testify truthfully.

However, Neuhaus says she and Tiller took painstaking steps to ensure they were abiding by state laws after they were re-written to include the clause about financial affiliation.

Tiller's attorneys maintain he received approval from the former director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in reference to Neuhaus as a consulting physician. It was a professional relationship also approved by Tiller's then-attorneys.

At times, Neuhaus called Disney's questions "illogical" and "ridiculous."

Disney, saying Tiller recruited Neuhaus for business purposes, asked if Neuhaus ever thought Tiller should have had more than one consulting physician for patients to see. Neuhaus said patients were free to see whomever they chose, but that few doctors in Kansas would offer a second opinion on such a controversial procedure. She said it was easiest and most convenient for her to be the primary second physician.

Prosecutors excused her from the stand at 3:15 Tuesday afternoon.

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Noon Update:

A judge in the trial of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller has declared physician Kristin Neuhaus a "hostile witness." She is the one and only witness for the prosecution in the case.

In three hours of testimony this morning, Dr. Kristin Neuhaus denied any wrongdoing or financial involvement with Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller.

Prosecutors contend Tiller essentially hired Neuhaus to be his consulting physician, claiming she rubber-stamped her approval in at least 19 late term abortions performed in 2003. The misdemeanor charges stem from an investigation started by former Attorney General and avid abortion opponent Phill Kline.

In exchange for her truthful testimony, Neuhaus was granted immunity from charges in connection with the case. She told jurors today that although she believes she is innocent of any crime, she feared prosecution under Kline, and later Steven Six.

During cross-examination by Tiller's defense attorneys this morning, Neuhaus maintained she and Tiller always had a professional and financially independent relationship when it came to her patient consultations.

Neuhaus told jurors she maintained her own patient records, was paid independently by Tiller's patients, and that she even reimbursed Tiller's offices anytime she needed to use a computer or printer.

She also said there were times she turned patients away, saying she did not believe they were eligible for a late-term abortion.

Asked if Dr. Tiller ever tried to control her consultations, Neuhaus said, "It was totally my own judgement... I was never under any coersion."

Shortly before the afternoon lunch recess, Neuhaus and prosecutors began a heated exchange.

Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney asked if Neuhaus had spoken with Dr. Tiller regarding her fees before taking on consultations. Neuhaus said she did not recall such a conversation.

Disney pointed to a series of notes reportedly taken over-the-phone indicating Neuhaus may have engaged in such a conversation with Dr. Tiller.

"It's been ten years," Neuhaus said. "I'm sorry if I don't remember exactly."

Pressed again by prosecutors, Neuhaus fired back, "Why don't you ask Dr. Tiller."

Judge Clark Owens II then summoned attorneys on both sides to the bench for a brief private discussion, after which he declared Neuhaus to be a hostile witness. This allows Disney to take a more direct and aggressive line of questioning when court resumes after lunch.

Look for additional updates on KAKE News and KAKE.com.

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9:00 AM Update:

Testimony resumes this morning in the trial of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Court recessed Monday after hearing the first round of testimony from Lawrence-area physician Kristin Neuhaus.

Neuhaus is expected to take the stand again this morning and answer questions from Tiller's defense team.

Tiller is charged with 19 misdemeanors, alleging he violated the state's late-term abortion laws by obtaining his second opinion from Neuhaus. Prosecutors allege Neuhaus and Tiller shared a financial relationship. Under Kansas statutes, late-term abortions may only be performed if continuing the pregnancy irreversibly endangers the mother's health, and if a financially independent second doctor agrees the abortion is necessary.

Neither side disputes the accuracy of Neuhaus' second opinion on Tiller's abortions, only that she was financially affiliated with the doctor.

Neuhaus is the only witness for the prosecution. She was granted immunity in this case in exchange for her testimony. However, on Monday she told Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney that she was not financially linked to Dr. Tiller.

Disney showed jurors a deposition obtained by investigators in 2006 under former Attorney General Phill Kline. In the transcript, Neuhaus said she was a full-time consultant for Tiller. Prosecutors say Neuhaus was practically one of Tiller's employees in 2003, the year she signed off on the 19 late-term abortions now part of the case.

But Neuhaus said the deposition was obtained under hostile circumstances, and that she misspoke when she said she was a full-time consultant.

Neuhaus said she should have told investigators she was Tiller's "only consultant," and that she worked only one day a week.

Tiller's attorneys say he is innocent of any wrong doing. In opening statements Monday, attorney Dan Monnat told jurors Tiller followed the advice of his legal counsel and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in obtaining Dr. Neuhaus for second opinions. Monnat said Tiller took painstaking steps to ensure he followed the law.

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


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