Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Morrison sworn in, vows to fire Kline-appointed prosecutor

January 11, 2007

— Moments after being sworn into office, Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison said Monday he will fire the special prosecutor in his predecessor's abortion investigation.

He's also fearful about the security of records in the case.

"I do have concerns about how many copies have been made of that material and who's got possession of them," Morrison said of the case file, which includes medical records of women and girls who received abortions.

In his final days as attorney general, Phill Kline appointed attorney Don McKinney to lead efforts to charge George Tiller, a Wichita doctor, with performing illegal late-term abortions. Tiller has denied any wrongdoing.

"There is no doubt about the fact that we're going to get rid of Mr. McKinney," Morrison said Monday. "I do not view him as being even remotely independent or remotely objective to (handle the case)."

McKinney of Wichita could not be reached for comment. Both he and Kline are ardent abortion opponents.

Kline filed charges against Tiller alleging he performed 15 illegal late-term abortions in 2003 on patients ages 10 to 22 and failed to properly report details of the procedures to state health officials. Tiller, through his attorneys, has said the abortions were allowable under an exception to the late-term abortion ban that permits them if the mother's life or health is threatened.

The misdemeanor charges filed last month in Sedgwick County District Court were dismissed on a jurisdiction issue after Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston protested Kline's actions.

Kline then appointed McKinney as a special prosecutor in the case, saying he didn't think Morrison would pursue the investigation once he left office.

In an attempt to reinstate the charges, McKinney has appealed that District Court decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.

McKinney wrote to the state Supreme Court that "Foulston had no lawful authority to interfere with the action of the attorney general."

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, described Morrison's intention to fire McKinney as an "overt political act aimed at thwarting the prosecution of Tiller, with whom Morrison has political ties."

Morrison denied the allegation, vowing to review the case that Kline has put together.

"If there are illegal abortions taking place in this state in violation of state law, I will enforce them," Morrison said.

Morrison, a Democrat and former Johnson County district attorney, routed Kline, a Republican, in the November general election. Then in an unprecedented turn of events in Kansas politics, Republican precinct officials in Johnson County elected Kline to become district attorney there.

They were allowed to select Morrison's successor because Morrison had been elected to the district attorney's office as a Republican and then switched to the Democratic Party to run against Kline. Kline took over his new job Monday.

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