Dr. Tiller Testifies In His Own Defense

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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4:00 PM Update

Defense attorneys call Joan Armentrout, a manager of Dr. Tiller's clinic. She testifies Dr. Neuhaus regularly offered second opinions to Tiller's late-term abortion patients. She says Neuhaus was never paid by the clinic, or otherwise employed by the clinic or Dr. Tiller. She operated independently, and was paid by the patients, regardless of whether she approved or denied the late-term abortion. Armentrout says she saw Neuhaus deny several late-term procedures. She says Neuhaus was never under the control or influence of Dr. Tiller.

Next on the stand is Tiller's former attorney, Rachael Pirner. She helped Tiller facilitate adoptions in the 90s. She was also one of the attorneys to consult with Dr. Tiller regarding the legal issues surrounding Dr. Neuhaus as a second doctor.

Pirner says her law firm worked with Tiller to try and clarify the two physician rule in 1999. During this time, the state began interpreting the two physician requirement to mean two Kansas physicians.

Pirner met with the Board of Healing Arts to resolve the matter. Tiller's attorneys were prepared to challenge the constitutionality of the two Kansas physician interpretation in federal court.

Pirner says the lawsuit was never filed. She says that's because she received a call from Dr. Tiller indicating he had spoken with the KSBHA former director, who recommended Dr. Neuhaus become his consulting doctor. Pirner says the conversation happened only a few days after attorneys had met with the board to discuss the possibility of a federal lawsuit.

Pirner says she contacted Dr. Neuhaus to arrange a phone consultation between all parties to ensure the doctors relationship would not violate state laws.

Pirner says she was aware Neuhaus would be consulting with Dr. Tiller's patients at his clinic. She says this arrangement was agreed upon for convenience and, ultimately, the safety of the patients.

Pirner is asked if there was ever a concern that Tiller and Neuhaus' relationship could be construed as financially linked if she didn't pay rent while using his office to conduct her consultations. Pirner says no. As she tries to explain why, Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney objects and asks if both sides can approach the bench for a private discussion with the judge.

Pirner says she relied on the advice of KSBHA director Larry Buening in coming to the conclusion there would not be a conflict of interest by having Neuhaus conduct her consultations at Tiller's clinic. In his reported phone conversation with Tiller, Buening allegedly suggested Neuhaus make the drive to Wichita and that "all [of Tiller's] problems go away."

Pirner answers several more questions before court is recessed for the afternoon. She will take the stand again tomorrow morning as the defense continues it's case. On Tuesday, defense attorney Dan Monnat told the judge he would likely conclude his case before the end of the week.

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2:45 PM Update

Prosecutors cross examining Dr. Tiller ask him how much he makes performing abortions. Tiller says his overhead is around 62%, meaning he takes home about 38% of the clinic's revenues. He says the average abortion costs approximately $6,000.

Dr. Tiller said his clinic administered 250 to 300 late-term abortions in 2003.

Prosecutors point to Tiller's notes taken in June of 1999, the day he says he spoke with the former director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and later Dr. Neuhaus. Written in the notes is: "Chris (sic) would be glad to do this. Needs the money."

Prosecutors say even if Tiller did have a conversation with former KSBHA Director Larry Buening - who denies any such conversation took place - Tiller also consulted with his attorneys, suggesting he didn't have 100% faith in Buening's recommendation. Under Kansas law, relying on the advice of counsel is not a legitimate defense strategy.

Prosecutors end their questions a few moments later, and Dr. Tiller returns to sit next to his attorneys at the defendant's table. Court takes a brief recess.

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Noon Update

Dr. Tiller tells jurors he never paid Dr. Neuhaus for her services. He says Dr. Neuhaus was only paid by the patients she saw. He also tells jurors she sometimes disagreed with the need for a late-term abortion, and would not give the consent required by law from a second physician.

Tiller says when he first spoke with Neuhaus, she told him she was available for consultation and "would be happy to do this. She needed the money," he said.

However, Tiller says at no time did that mean they were financially or legally connected. She was paid by her patients, and not his clinic.

When asked if he ever had any reason to believe he or Dr. Neuhaus shared a financial connection, Dr. Tiller said "no."

However, on cross-examination from prosecutors, Tiller agreed aspects of his professional dealings with Neuhaus did evolve over the years. Prosecutors, who believe Tiller controlled when and where Neuhaus saw his patients, point to the fact Neuhaus stopped driving to the clinic when called, and was in a regular routine of showing up one day a week by 2003.

Prosecutors also point out Larry Buening denies any conversation ever took place regarding Dr. Neuhaus as a consulting doctor.

Judge Owens calls for a lunch break. Court will resume at 1:30 this afternoon.

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10:30 AM Update

Dr. Tiller tells jurors he has often been under stress and wondered if he should leave his practice. He says the strong support of his wife and daughter have kept him going.

Tiller says he didn't just perform abortions. For several years, Tiller says he helped some women who wanted to continue the pregnancy but did not want to keep the baby. Dr. Tiller says in those cases, he facilitated adoptions.

He tells jurors he and his wife took some of these women into their home, helped them carry the baby to term, and then arranged adoptions with family and close friends.

In the late 90s, Tiller learned the state was looking to change the interpretation of the late-term abortion law to include a second opinion not just from any doctor, but specifically a Kansas doctor. Tiller planned to challenge the new interpretation because it placed a burden on patients traveling from out-of-state, already on the referall of their own doctors.

However, Tiller says he also began looking for other doctors in Kansas who would be willing to consult with his patients. He says he called around 100, and didn't have any luck.

In 1999, Tiller says he spoke with Larry Buening, then-Director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. He tried to explain to Bunning how hard it was to find a second Kansas doctor willing to consult with his abortion patients and sign off on late-term procedures, as well as how hard it was for out-of-state patients to find one - let alone two - in-state doctors to give consent to the abortion.

Tiller said in his conversation, Buening replied, "Why don't you use Dr. Kristin Neuhaus and that will take care of all your problems."

Tiller said at that time, he knew of Neuhaus, but was not affiliated with her in any way.

Tiller said Buening told him "the board is neither pro-choice nor anti-choice."

When asked how he was able to recall the conversation so well after 10 years, Tiller said he took notes on a day-planner at his desk. Those notes were apparently maintained over the years. Defense attorneys display the notes on an overhead projector for jurors to see.

Tiller said she contacted Neuhaus, who told him she was available for consultation. Tiller's notes on that conversation are also contained within the day-planner shown to jurors.

Defense attorneys request a brief recess. Court will resume at approximately 11:00.

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10:00 AM Update

Dr. Tiller tells jurors his practice began performing abortions after the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. In the 80s, he said there were several doctors in town performing abortions, but the numbers began to wane as protestors began picketing and harassing physicians.

Attorney Dan Monnat asks if Dr. Neuhaus ever had a stake in Dr. Tiller's clinic during her time as his consultant. Tiller says no.

Tiller says there are only two or three clinics in the country currently providing late-term abortions. One is in Colorado, another in Los Angeles, and then there is his.

Tiller says he is a member of a number professional medical associations.

Monnat asks why so few doctors perform abortions now. Tiller says it's because of the threat to the doctor's families, themselves and their lives. He recounts how his clinic was bombed in 1986. "It takes people who are dedicated to the care of women and their health care rights after such a bombing," Tiller says. The bombing caused around $100,000 in damages.

In 1991, Tiller's clinic was the sight of the Summer of Mercy, where hundreds of protestors gathered to picket. Tiller says on days when women would come to his clinic, protestors would block the entrance and have to be forcibly removed by police for patients to get through. Tiller says police made approximately 2,000 arrests during the protests.

During the Summer of Mercy, Tiller was given protection by the ATF and US Marshalls.

In 1993, Doctor Tiller was shot by an abortion protestor. It happened as he left work. Tiller said he saw somebody approach his car. He thought it was an abortion opponent preparing to hand him literature. But when he saw her clearly, he realized she was carrying a gun.

"She shot at me five times," Tiller told jurors. "She hit me in each arm. It was attempted murder."

The woman was later convicted of first degree attempted murder and is currently incarcerated.

In 2001, Tiller says there was another protest outside his clinic to mark the ten year anniversary of the Summer of Mercy. "They said they came back to finish the job," Tiller told jurors.

In 1994, one year after Tiller was shot, FBI investigators learned he was the #1 target for assasination by radical abortion opponents. He was given protection by federal US Marshalls from 1994 to 1997.

Tiller tells the jury how some abortion protestors have broken into his church during services and disrupted worship. He tells them his staff has been picketed outside their own homes, with photos of aborted fetuses plastered around the neighborhood.

Tiller said he considers his staff "heroes" for coming to work everyday in the face of so much harassment and, in some cases, danger.

He also tells jurors how protestors would picket the hotel where his out-of-town patients stayed. Some would even follow patients to their rooms, and slip anti-abortion literature under the doors.

His testimony continues...

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Wednesday, March 25

9:45 AM Update

Doctor Tiller takes the stand as the first witness for the defense. He begins telling jurors how he became a physician, initially focussing on family medicine. He wanted first to be a dermatologist, but said he fell in love with family medicine. He would eventually take over his father's business after his death in a plane crash.

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9:00 AM Update

Defense attorneys for Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller will present their case to jurors today. Attorney Dan Monnat said at the start of Trial on Monday that Dr. Tiller never knowingly or willingly violated the state's late-term abortion laws by being legally or financially linked to his consulting physician.

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday afternoon, after calling their one and only witness, Lawrence-area doctor Ann Kristin Neuhaus.

Dr. Neuhaus was the consulting physician who signed off on most of Tiller's late-term abortions. She was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony in the case. Prosecutors maintain she and Tiller were engaged in a financial and legal relationship. Kansas laws require a second opinion from a doctor with no monetary or legal affiliation with the referring physician.

Prosecutors say Neuhaus was recruited by Tiller, counseled by his attorneys, and arranged her patient fees with him before beginning her work in 1999. They say Tiller controlled when and where Neuhaus saw patients, essentially acting as her employeer.

Neuhaus was defensive at times Tuesday as prosecutors pressed her for answers. Judge Clark Owens II eventually declared her a hostile witness, allowing prosecutors to take a more aggressive approach to their line of questions. At one point, Neuhaus told Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney his questions "ridiculous" and "illogical."

Defense attorneys say they will call at least one witness, but have otherwise been very tight-lipped on their plans for the case. In opening statements, Monnat told jurors Tiller asked Neuhaus to be his consulting physician after getting the approval of the former director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. Monnat said Tiller made sure to consult with his attorneys before pursuing Neuhaus, and took painstaking steps to make sure he followed the letter of the law.

Defense attorneys say they anticipate turning the case over to jurors before the end of the week.

Stay with KAKE News and KAKE.com for updates.


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