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Grand Jury to Weigh Murder Charges in Suicide-Device Case

From Associated Press

A grand jury will decide whether to bring murder charges against a doctor who used his so-called suicide machines to help two women kill themselves, a prosecutor said Thursday.

A medical examiner ruled Wednesday that the deaths assisted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian in October were homicides, not suicides.

Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson also said he would seek to have Kevorkian, 63, held in contempt of court for violating a judge’s order, imposed after a 1990 assisted suicide, that he refrain from helping people kill themselves.

The retired pathologist’s medical license was suspended after the October deaths. Kevorkian is appealing the suspension.

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His attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, exchanged barbs with Thompson in separate news conferences.

Fieger accused Thompson of waging a vendetta against the doctor, while Thompson said Kevorkian and Fieger were “attempting to turn these serious proceedings into a media circus.”

Thompson said the grand jury would begin work in January, and that he would drop the case if it refuses to indict Kevorkian. He said anyone who refuses to testify could be charged with contempt, which carries up to a year in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Fieger said several family members of the dead women had received subpoenas to testify on Jan. 6, but he predicted that they would not talk to the grand jury unless they were granted immunity from prosecution.

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“If not, they will read a statement to the grand jury telling Mr. Thompson that he is a buffoon and taking the Fifth Amendment” against self-incrimination, he said.

Dr. Ljubisa J. Dragovic, the Oakland County medical examiner, filed amended death certificates Wednesday for Marjorie Wantz, 58, of Sodus, and Sherry Miller, 43, of Roseville, saying their deaths were homicides. The two died Oct. 23 after using suicide devices that Kevorkian created.

A first-degree murder charge was dismissed against Kevorkian for his role in helping Janet Adkins of Portland, Ore., commit suicide in June, 1990. Kevorkian hooked her to a device similar to the one Wantz used. Adkins pushed a button, giving herself a lethal injection.

After Adkins’ death, Oakland County Circuit Judge Alice Gilbert ordered Kevorkian not to use his suicide machine again or otherwise help anyone commit suicide.

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Michigan has no law prohibiting assisted suicide. Several bills have been introduced in the Legislature.


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