Kevorkian arraigned in Michigan on second charge of assisting suicide

September 15, 1993|By New York Times News Service

REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Dr. Jack Kevorkian was charged yesterday for a second time with violating Michigan's new law against assisting in a suicide, but he stayed out of jail when a judge refused to set an unusually steep bond.

The Wayne County prosecutor, John D. O'Hair, charged Dr. Kevorkian with assisting in the suicide Thursday of Donald O'Keefe, 73, of the Detroit suburb of Redford Township. Mr. O'Keefe's death came only hours after Dr. Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, was ordered to stand trial for aiding in the Aug. 4 suicide of Thomas W. Hyde Jr., 30, in Detroit.

At a news conference yesterday, the prosecutor denounced the doctor's help in the O'Keefe suicide as "reckless lawlessness." It was the 18th suicide Dr. Kevorkian has attended since 1990.

"All indications are that more deaths will follow unless he somehow is brought into check," Mr. O'Hair said. "If jailing is what is necessary, then jailing is what it must be." He asked for a cash bond of $250,000; Dr. Kevorkian was not required to post any bond after being charged in the earlier case.

But two hours after the news conference, Geoffrey N. Fieger, Dr. Kevorkian's lawyer, argued in Michigan's 17th District Court that the prosecution's bond request was for a "vindictively, absurdly high amount." Mr. Fieger said that one county judge had already ruled the law unconstitutional and that no one except Dr. Kevorkian had ever been charged with assisted suicide. He suggested that bond be set at $1.

Eunice O'Keefe, widow of the latest suicide, sat with Dr. Kevorkian to show support, and the courtroom was filled with other supporters.

Judge Richard Manning set a cash bond of $10,000 and ordered as a condition of the bond that Dr. Kevorkian "not engage in any activity which will in any way be a violation of the assisted suicide statute."

Dr. Kevorkian stood mute. But he has repeatedly said that he will continue to assist in suicides when he feels they are justified to stop suffering. "Locking me up is the only way to stop me," he said in an interview just hours before the suicide of Mr. O'Keefe, who was suffering from bone cancer.

His trial on the Hyde suicide is scheduled to begin Sept. 24, and a preliminary hearing in the O'Keefe case was set for Sept. 21.

Dr. Kevorkian openly invited prosecution in the Hyde case, admitting that he had assisted in that suicide and telling in great detail how he had helped Mr. Hyde, who was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease, to kill himself with carbon monoxide.

Staff members in the prosecutor's office said they might have a more difficult time proving the doctor's guilt in the O'Keefe suicide, since no one else was present and the doctor has refused to discuss his role.

But they decided to press charges anyway, in part because, under Michigan law, charging him in another case makes it easier to ask for a higher bond. After the decision yesterday, prosecutors said they would seek to reopen Dr. Kevorkian's bond in the Hyde case.

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