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Jury deliberates in Kevorkian murder trial

Kevorkian
Kevorkian, acting as his own attorney, presenting closing arguments to the jury  

March 25, 1999
Web posted at: 9:15 p.m. EST (0215 GMT)

PONTIAC, Michigan (CNN) -- The jury in the murder trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian deliberated for more than five hours Thursday before adjourning for the day.

The jury will resume deliberations Friday.

Kevorkian, a longtime euthanasia proponent, compared himself to civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in final remarks earlier Thursday.

The prosecutor, in his closing arguments, called the 70-year- old pathologist a "medical hit man in the night with his bag of poison."

"He's asking you to say that what he did is all right," Oakland County assistant prosecutor John Skrzynski told jurors. "It's a crime. What he did is a murder."

During deliberations, jurors again watched a tape of the CBS program "60 Minutes," which they viewed when the trial began Monday. In it Kevorkian is shown giving a lethal injection to Thomas Youk, 52.

Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal illness that leaves victims unable to speak, swallow or move. The lethal injection was administered September 17.

Skrzynski said Kevorkian was not accountable to anyone when he injected Youk.

"When he asks you to give him that power -- because he is surely asking you to forget that law and give him that power -- it will be an unaccountable power," he told the seven men and seven women on the jury, including two alternates.

Skrzynski characterized Kevorkian as being uncaring and having his own political agenda to promote euthanasia.

Kevorkian represented himself in the trial

"He (Youk) didn't want to die," said Kevorkian, who represented himself in the trial. "Nobody does, but sometime we're forced in situations where you've got to die, somehow.

"Did Thomas Youk have a choice to end his agony, and by helping him achieve that aim, did I commit murder, first- or second-degree, or manslaughter? That's the issue that you've got to decide," he told the jury.

Kevorkian repeatedly acknowledged that his action caused death but denied that it was a "killing," as Skrzynski impressed on the jury.

"I intended to do my duty. Not murder," Kevorkian said.

Kevorkian did not testify or call witnesses during the trial after the presiding judge denied his request for Youk's widow and brother to testify.

Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper would not allow Melody and Terry Youk to take the stand, saying their testimony would attempt to demonstrate Thomas Youk's pain and suffering. Those factors are not legal defenses for murder in Michigan.

"We were shocked and outraged," said Terry Youk, who had hoped either Melody or he could "testify to the condition of my brother and to the decisions that led him to his choice."

Jurors considering the murder charge have three options: first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter. Kevorkian could face mandatory life in prison without parole. He also is charged with illegal use of a controlled substance to inject Youk.

Cooper rejected the prosecution's request for an explicit warning to the jurors against "jury nullification," which means setting aside the law out of sympathy for a defendant.

Besides the tape, jurors asked for a legal dictionary during deliberations, but the judge denied that request.

By his own estimation, Kevorkian has taken part in more than 130 suicides since 1990. Three trials on assisted suicide charges ended in acquittals and a fourth in a mistrial.


RELATED STORIES:
Youk's wife upset as jury weighs Kevorkian's fate
March 25, 1999
Kevorkian murder trial set for March
December 16, 1998
Kevorkian to stand trial for murder
December 9, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Doctor-Assisted Suicide--a guide to WEB Sites and the literature
The Kevorkian Papers
Ethics Matters - Dr. Kevorkian's Latest Release: Death, Crimes and Videotape
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