Judge Recuses in Tiller Abortion Case

Wichita, KS — Judge Anthony Powell, a former legislator and outspoken pro-life supporter recused himself today from hearing the criminal case against late-term abortionist George R. Tiller.

Attorneys for Tiller had requested Powell’s removal from the highly-charged case. The Assistant Attorney General Veronica Dersch took no position on the Tiller request for a new judge.

Judge Powell read a prepared statement during a court hearing this morning that explained the reasons for his recusal. He stated that it was not because of his previously stated pro-life beliefs, or because of his role as a legislator, or because of the small part he played in crafting the law that Tiller is now charged with 19 counts of violating.

“I have no doubt about my ability to rule impartially in this case,” he said.

However, Judge Powell indicated that comments he is alleged to have made about Tiller more than 10 years ago are grounds for recusal. Because those comments raised even the appearance of partiality, he decided to step down from the case.

“We appreciate Judge Powell’s openness and honesty, and his desire to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” said Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger, who was present for the hearing. “His ruling today only reinforces our belief that Judge Powell is a man of integrity who would have ruled fairly, if given an opportunity. Other judges in the system should take note of his actions today and learn from them.”

Other judges who have been involved with Tiller cases have come under a cloud of suspicion because of undisclosed financial connections to Tiller and/or his attorneys. Judge Paul Clark, who dismissed 30 criminal charges brought by former Attorney General Phill Kline, withstood an ethics investigation only because it could not be proved that he actually saw his campaign finance reports that included donations from Tiller and others associated with him. Operation Rescue discovered that Judge Gregory Waller, the presiding judge who arraigned Tiller, also had received campaign contributions from Tiller’s attorneys.

The case was sent back to Judge Waller for reassignment.