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Kevorkian charged with murder in euthanasia case

Prosecutors take doctor up on challenge

Gorcyca is charging Kevorkian with murder  
November 25, 1998
Web posted at: 4:12 p.m. EST (2112 GMT)

PONTIAC, Michigan (CNN) -- Setting up a high-profile legal battle over euthanasia and assisted suicide, Michigan authorities charged Dr. Jack Kevorkian with first-degree murder Wednesday in the death of a 52-year-old man with Lou Gehrig's disease.

Kevorkian was expected to turn himself in to Oakland County authorities Wednesday afternoon, and he was expected to be arraigned a short time later.

Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca said he acted after viewing the raw videotape, provided by CBS, of Kevorkian injecting the patient, Thomas Youk, with a drug that killed him. An edited version was aired Sunday night on the CBS news program "60 Minutes."

Gorcyca said he would seek no bond for Kevorkian, citing a past incident in which the retired pathologist appeared in court during the day and dropped off a body at the coroner's office that same night.

Along with the murder charge, Kevorkian is charged with criminal assistance to a suicide and delivery of a controlled substance.

Prosecutors confident of conviction

Gorcyca said there was not a contradiction in charging Kevorkian with both murder and assisted suicide, and said prosecutors felt they could convict on both counts.

"Not withstanding public sentiment on the issue of assisted suicide, it's incumbent upon me to make charging decisions solely on the law and not emotion or sympathy," Gorcyca said. "In this case there's an obvious violation of the law that I won't turn my back to," he said.

He cited a Michigan law that went into effect this year, making it illegal to plan or participate in an assisted suicide.

The prosecutor defended his decision not to charge the doctor until seeing the unedited videotape.

Gorcyca had said Monday that he would not be "baited" into a charge without having all the evidence. "It was vital that a decision be made only after all the facts were known," he said.

Gorcyca also told reporters several times that it would make no difference that Houck wanted to die.

"Consent is not a viable defense in taking a life of another, even under the most controlled environment," he said.

"I doubt there will come a case where there presents itself such convincing evidence of these crimes as depicted on videotape and in conjunction with admissions to having committed these crimes," Gorcyca said. "Our proofs are strong."

Kevorkian dared prosecutors to charge him

Kevorkian at an earlier trial on charges stemming from assisted suicide  

Kevorkian staged the "60 Minutes" interview in hopes that authorities would charge him and force a legal showdown over assisted suicide and euthanasia.

He told CBS' Mike Wallace if he was held in jail he would go on a hunger strike. He already has been acquitted at three earlier trials.

In an interview with the Oakland Press published Monday, Kevorkian said he would give Gorcyca a week to take action.

"Either charge me within a week, or I will resume my practice, and resist with all my power any attempt to arrest or hinder me," he told the paper.

The 70-year-old retired pathologist has admitted helping more than 130 people end their lives. But Kevorkian said it was the first time he himself had directly administered the fatal dose.

In Sunday night's broadcast, reporter Mike Wallace asked Kevorkian, "You killed him?"

"I did," Kevorkian replied. "But it could be manslaughter, not murder. It's not necessarily murder. But it doesn't bother me what you call it. I know what it is. This could never be a crime in any society which deems itself enlightened."

During the "60 Minutes" broadcast, Youk's family said he had suffered terrible pain from his disease.

"I was so grateful to know that someone would relieve him of his suffering," Youk's wife, Melody, said. "I don't consider it murder. I consider it the way things should be."

The family had written to Kevorkian, who videotaped his first meeting with them. That videotape was also broadcast by "60 Minutes" and showed Kevorkian explaining to Youk what he wanted to do, then asking for and receiving his written consent.

"I had him sign a thing that he chose direct injection, and he signed it," Kevorkian said. He said he felt sure he did not force Youk to agree.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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