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In his closing argument, Kevorkian told jurors that some acts “by sheer common sense are not crimes.”
“Just look at me,” he said. “Honestly now, do you see a criminal? Do you see a murderer?”
The U.S. Supreme Court twice turned back appeals from Kevorkian, in 2002, when he argued that his prosecution was unconstitutional, and in 2004, when he claimed he had ineffective representation.
Kevorkian was freed in June 2007 after serving eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence. His lawyers had said he suffered from hepatitis C, diabetes and other problems, and he had promised in affidavits that he would not assist in a suicide if he was released.
In an interview at the time, Youk’s brother Terrence said his brother received “a medical service that was requested and, from my point of view, compassionately provided by Jack. It should not be a crime.”
But Tina Allerellie became a fierce critic after her 34-year-old sister, Karen Shoffstall, turned to Kevorkian in 1997. She said in 2007 that Shoffstall, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was struggling with depression and fear but could have lived for years longer.
“(Kevorkian’s) intent, I believe, has always been to gain notoriety,” Allerellie said.
In 2008, Kevorkian ran for Congress as an independent, receiving just 2.7 percent of the vote in the suburban Detroit district. He said his experience showed the party system was “corrupt” and “has to be completely overhauled from the bottom up.”
Born in 1928, in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, Kevorkian graduated from the University of Michigan’s medical school in 1952 and became a pathologist.
Kevorkian said he first became interested in euthanasia during his internship year when he watched a middle-aged woman die of cancer. She was so emaciated, her sagging, discolored skin “covered her bones like a cheap, wrinkled frock,” Kevorkian wrote.
After building a suicide device in 1989 from parts he found in flea markets, he sought his first assisted-suicide candidate by placing advertisements in local newspapers. Newspaper and TV interviews brought more attention.
On June 4, 1990, he drove his van to a secluded park north of Detroit. After Janet Adkins, 54, of Portland, Ore., met him there, he inserted a needle into her arm and, when she was ready, she flipped the switch that released a lethal flow of drugs.
He later switched from his device to canisters of carbon monoxide, again insisting patients took the final step by removing a clamp that released the flow of deadly gas to the face mask.
L. Brooks Patterson, a former prosecutor and the county executive in Oakland County, where Kevorkian assisted in a number of deaths, described the doctor as an “affable guy” but said his tactics hurt his cause.
“I don’t think he was the right ambassador to represent the issue,” Patterson said. “It was the law be damned with him. The issue would have been better debated in a more serious arena than in the back of Jack’s van. … It was a sideshow. Helping people commit suicide in the back of a van is not dying with dignity.”
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