Appeals court affirms Kevorkian's conviction

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Associated Press WriterLANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the murder conviction of assisted suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian in the death of a 52-year-old man that was shown on television.

The decision, handed down Tuesday and announced Wednesday, said finding euthanasia legal would be a first step down a "slippery slope."

Kevorkian, 73, who says he has assisted in more than 130 deaths, is serving a 10- to 25-year sentence for the September 1998 death of Thomas Youk, who was terminally ill with Lou Gehrig's disease.

"But for defendant's self-described zealotry, Thomas Youk's death would, in all probability, not have been the subject of national attention, much less a murder trial," the court said.

"Defendant, in what is now apparently something of an afterthought, asks us to conclude that euthanasia is legal and, therefore, to reverse his conviction on constitutional grounds. We refuse. Such a holding would be the first step down a very steep and slippery slope."

Kevorkian had videotaped himself injecting Youk with a lethal dose of potassium chloride and gave the tape to CBS' "60 Minutes." The tape was televised in November 1998, and prosecutors quickly responded with a murder charge.

Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder in March 1999. He acted as his own attorney for most of the trial, telling the court his actions were "a medical service for an agonized human being."

The jury could have convicted Kevorkian of first-degree murder, which would have sent him to prison to life without possibility of parole.

Kevorkian's attorney Mayer Morganroth said Wednesday he planned to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court and to federal courts, if necessary.

Before the appeals court, Morganroth argued that Kevorkian deserved a new trial, saying, "I don't think (his conviction) would have occurred had he had effective counsel."

But Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Anica Letica said Kevorkian knowingly chose to represent himself, with attorney David Gorosh advising him.

"He's guilty of murder," she said Wednesday. "He knew exactly what he was going to do. It was to further his own political agenda."

The court found Kevorkian did not prove that Gorosh did an inadequate job, or that he was responsible for Kevorkian's conviction.

"Defendant chose -- almost certainly unwisely but nevertheless knowingly, intelligently, voluntarily and unequivocally -- to represent himself. He cannot now assign the blame for his conviction to someone who did not act as his trial counsel," the court wrote.

Morganroth also contended that an autopsy never proved that Youk, of Waterford, died as a direct result of the lethal injection given by Kevorkian -- an argument disputed by Letica.

Kevorkian told "60 Minutes" he hoped to push prosecutors to act.

"They must charge me. Because if they do not, that means they don't think it was a crime ... They don't need any more evidence, do they?"

Acting as his own attorney, Kevorkian asked jurors at his trial, "Honestly now, do you see a criminal? Do you see a murderer? ... If you do, then you must convict."

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