Kevorkian gets 10 to 25 years in prison
April 13, 1999
PONTIAC, Michigan (CNN) -- A Michigan judge sentenced Dr. Jack Kevorkian on Tuesday to 10 to 25 years in prison following his conviction of second-degree murder in the euthanasia death of a man with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper scolded Kevorkian before announcing his sentence.
"You had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did, and dare the legal system to stop you," she said. "Well, sir, consider yourself stopped."
Kevorkian was found guilty March 26 in the death of Thomas Youk, 52.
Kevorkian injected Youk with a lethal cocktail of chemicals on September 17 and videotaped the death. The video was shown two months later on CBS' "60 Minutes."
Cooper also sentenced Kevorkian to 3 to 7 years for his conviction on charges of administering a controlled substance stemming from the same case. The sentences will run concurrently.
The judge rejected a defense motion to release Kevorkian on bond pending an appeal of his murder conviction.
Kevorkian showed no emotion as the judge handed down his sentence. He was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski expressed satisfaction with the sentencing.
"This case has not been about the right to die; this case is not about Tom Youk," he said. "This case has always been about what Jack Kevorkian did, and the jury has now said that that's murder, and the judge has now said that he must pay."
In a failed attempt to win leniency, Kevorkian attorney Meyer Morganroth asked Cooper to depart from sentencing guidelines and sentence his client to "a day or a year and a day and probation."
Morganroth also cited Kevorkian's age and his promise not to conduct further euthanasias.
Kevorkian had no comment during the hearing.
Youk's widow and brother strongly defended Kevorkian after the sentencing.
"Many people talk about the personality as Jack is portrayed in the media. That is not his personality," said Melody Youk.
"The fact that this all exists is because it (euthanasia) continues to be illegal," she added. "It's exactly this nightmare because it's still illegal."
Terry Youk was angered by the way prosecutors characterized Kevorkian's role in his brother's death.
"The prosecutor wasn't there. He doesn't know. He's guessing, and it's his fantasy what happened, but it's not in fact the truth. The truth is my brother made that choice. He initiated the contact and Doctor Kevorkian fulfilled his wishes," he said.
He called the sentencing "outrageous, but not surprising."
While denied a chance to testify during the trial, Terry and Melody Youk did appear before the court during the sentencing hearing.
By the end of her husband's life, Melody Youk said, he could control only his thumb and the first two fingers of one hand, and was losing his ability to speak and metabolize food.
Youk suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is characterized by a progressive degeneration of motor cells in the spinal cord and brain.
ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the New York Yankee slugger who died from the disease in 1941.
Both Youks said that the prosecution had presented a distorted view of the facts by focusing only on Kevorkian's actions.
"Why hasn't the prosecution accused me with a co-conspiracy?" Terry Youk said at the hearing. "I composed and wrote the letter to Dr. Kevorkian."
Cooper prohibited the Youks from speaking during Kevorkian's trial, called their testimony irrelevant to a murder case. Kevorkian acted as his own counsel during the proceeding.
Kevorkian's previous trials, all on assisted-suicide charges, have resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. He has admitted being present at 130 assisted deaths since 1990; this was the first time he stood trial for murder.
Kevorkian gets 10 to 25 years in prison
The Kevorkian Papers
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