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Opening Statement by Defense Lawyer Leads to Kevorkian Mistrial

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<i> From Associated Press</i>

Retired pathologist Jack Kevorkian’s latest assisted-suicide trial ended in a mistrial without a word of testimony Thursday because of an inflammatory opening statement from his combative lawyer.

Geoffrey Fieger, known for his scorched-earth rhetoric, had accused prosecutor Ray Voet of harassing the dead woman’s family and altering her death certificate.

Fieger also told the jury Wednesday of Kevorkian’s three previous acquittals in five deaths and criticized the common law under which Kevorkian is charged.

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Ionia County Judge Charles Miel granted the prosecutor’s request for a mistrial, ruling that Fieger’s attack may have tainted the jury.

Kevorkian is accused of taking part in the suicide of Loretta Peabody, a 54-year-old multiple sclerosis victim whose body was cremated without an autopsy. The defendant is also charged with practicing medicine without a license. Each offense carries up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors say Kevorkian helped inject a heart-stopping drug into Peabody on Aug. 30 in Ionia. It is unknown whether a retrial will be sought. Before ordering a new trial, the judge would have to determine whose fault the mistrial was. If the prosecutor was even partly at fault, he could not bring the case again.

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