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Kevorkian Case: Kevorkian sentenced to 10 to 25 years

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Editor's Note: As part of CNN.com's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from CourtTVNews.com. This story was first published in 1999.

(Court TV) -- A Michigan judge sentenced Dr. Jack Kevorkian to 10 to 25 years in prison for second degree murder and three to seven years for delivery of a controlled substance.

Arguing that Kevorkian had repeatedly vowed to keep assisting terminal patients to die, Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper also denied his request to remain free on bail pending appeal.

"I question whether you will ever cease and desist," Cooper said. Saying the case before her was not about the controversy over euthanasia, but rather about Kevorkian's willful disobedience of the law, Judge Cooper refused to deviate from the state's sentencing guidelines.

"This is a court of law," announced Cooper before delivering the sentence. There are ways of challenging laws, she said, however, "You may not take the law into your own hands."

While others were working on a proposition to legalize assisted suicide in Michigan, she said, Kevorkian was with Thomas Youk, conspiring to break the law.

"You invited yourself to the wrong forum," said Cooper, referring to his earlier remark that he forced the issue in order to make his case for euthanasia before the court.

"You had audacity to go on national television, showed the world what you did and dared the legal system to stop you," she added. "Consider yourself stopped." Cooper said the people have had a chance to speak and voted 2-to-1 against assisted suicide in a recent Michigan vote. When he injected Youk with a lethal cocktail of drugs, what he did was "murder," she said.

Prosecutors had argued that Kevorkian should get a minimum of 10 to 25 years because he is a danger to society and has shown contempt for the law. Cooper agreed.

Cooper said Kevorkian "defied" his own profession. She reminded Kevorkian that the state suspended his medical license eight years ago, and therefore, he could not legally administer any drugs to a patient, let alone administer a fatal dose.

Prosecutor John Skrzynski praised the judge, saying her sentencing was a "highly courageous thing to do."

"This is not a special case. He is not a special person. He was accountable to law," Skrzynski said. He added that Kevorkian must serve two-thirds of his term before he is eligible for parole. After three acquittals and one hung jury, Kevorkian was found guilty March 26 of second-degree murder and for his role in the televised death of 52-year-old Thomas Youk.

The defense argued that Kevorkian does not pose a threat to society and was trying to help Youk, not victimize him.

Youk's widow, Melody, asked for leniency for Kevorkian, who she says helped end her husband's suffering. Youk's brother, Terry talked about how Lou Gehrig's disease had affected Thomas.

"My husband was grateful for the doctor's assistance to end his suffering," said Melody, calling Kevorkian's intervention "an act of compassion and courage."

"It was not a crime," said Melody, "and certainly not a murder."

She said her husband wanted to "bring himself to a peaceful transition," and had sought out Dr. Kevorkian to help him end his suffering.

Dr. Kevorkian did not victimize her husband, she added. "Tom chose it," she said, referring to the decision to have Kevorkian inject the drugs, rather than have Youk press a button to release the drugs into his system. Tom had lost control of most of his fingers and believed "success" would be more likely if Kevorkian administered the drugs, said Melody.

She said Youk would be "distressed that the man who brought peace and the end of pain would now have to suffer on his account."

"He was caught in hell," said Terry Youk, referring to his brother's final days. Terry said his lung capacity was reduced and he was choking on his own saliva, and that morphine couldn't help ease the pain.

Kevorkian was the only person with the "courage and fortitude to defy those inadequate and unjust laws," Terry said.

Kevorkian, 70, chose to represent himself during the Youk trial. He called no witnesses after Judge Cooper rejected his motion to admit the pain and suffering testimony of Youk's widow and brother. Kevorkian declined to speak at the sentencing.

Kevorkian has threatened to starve himself to death if imprisoned. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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