Kevorkian Is Charged With Murder The Prosecutor Said A Videotaped Death, Aired On ``60 Minutes,'' Showed An ``obvious Violation Of The Law.''

Posted: November 26, 1998

Jack Kevorkian, the 70-year-old retired pathologist who boasts of having assisted in the suicides of more than 130 people with debilitating illnesses, yesterday was charged with first-degree murder in a September death that he videotaped and called ``my first euthanasia.''

David Gorcyca, prosecutor of Oakland County, Mich., said that after reviewing videotapes of Kevorkian injecting Thomas Youk, 52, a Detroit-area man, with two chemicals to kill him, he found an ``obvious violation of the law, which I will not turn my back to.''

``The time has come for Kevorkian's violation of the law and his involvement in this complicated moral, ethical and legal issue to be resolved in a court of law . . . by a jury of his peers,'' Gorcyca said.

Youk suffered from advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. His death at his home in Waterford Township, Mich., on Sept. 17 was videotaped by Kevorkian. That videotape was shown Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes.

A smiling but uncharacteristically silent Kevorkian turned himself in to police yesterday about an hour after Gorcyca's announcement.

He was released later by a magistrate on the condition that he not participate in any assisted suicides. Michigan Magistrate Robert Crawford said Kevorkian would have to pay a personal bond of $750,000 cash if he violated that condition. Kevorkian gave Crawford his word he would not violate the stipulation pending completion of his trial.

Prosecutors had said Kevorkian should be held without bail because he had no respect for courts and had participated in assisted suicides while on trial.

In a meeting with Youk on Sept. 15 that Kevorkian also videotaped, Youk can be seen agreeing to the euthanasia and signing what Kevorkian said was a consent form.

Gorcyca, who postponed a decision on charging Kevorkian until he had viewed unedited videotapes he obtained from CBS, said that Youk's consent was immaterial.

``As I said before, consent is not a defense to homicide in the state of Michigan,'' Gorcyca said.

Earlier this week Kevorkian had said he performed and publicized Youk's euthanasia to ``force the state's hand'' in deciding what he termed ``a question of self-determination and choice.''

Kevorkian said the airing of the videotape was a ``challenge'' to Gorcyca, and he set a time limit of one week for the prosecutor to charge him. If the charge did not come in that time, Kevorkian said, he would again begin to kill those who asked for his help.

Kevorkian has been charged, tried and acquitted in Michigan three times in the last nine years for assisting in the suicides of five people. This is the first time Kevorkian has been charged with murder.

He was also charged yesterday with criminal assisted suicide, a felony since the rewriting of Michigan law earlier this year, and with delivering a controlled substance.

If found guilty of murder, Kevorkian could face a life sentence. He has said that if sent to prison, he will starve himself to death.

In the past, Kevorkian allowed people who wished to kill themselves to push a button or pull a string releasing a flow of deadly chemicals into their veins from his ``suicide machine.'' Youk's death was the first time, Kevorkian said, that he has directly injected a patient with the deadly chemicals.

Oakland County Coroner L.J. Dragovic said this week he believed Kevorkian performed euthanasia on three others this year. The three, found dead in a motel near Kevorkian's home with notes reading, ``I did it,'' were paralyzed and, Dragovic said, could not have participated in their deaths. Kevorkian has not taken public responsibility for the deaths.

Last month, after being convicted in Royal Oak Township of a misdemeanor stemming from a scuffle with police, Kevorkian broke off his relations with long-time attorney Geoffrey Fieger, the recent Democratic nominee for Michigan governor. Since then, Kevorkian has been represented by former Fieger associate David Gorosh, 30, who has less than four years of legal experience.

But Kevorkian said he would defend himself at his coming trial, a strategy Fieger called ``legal martyrdom.''

But Fieger also warned Gorcyca not to prosecute Kevorkian, noting that Gorcyca was elected two years ago after his predecessor was judged by the electorate to be overzealous in pursuing Kevorkian.

Though a November ballot referendum approving of assisted suicide was soundly defeated, Gorcyca repeatedly noted that public opinion polls showed a ``slim majority'' in Michigan favor the practice.

But yesterday Gorcyca said, ``not withstanding public opinion,'' he could not turn away from charging Kevorkian after reviewing the tapes, the police investigation and Youk's autopsy.

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