Kevorkian carried to jail in Michigan Suicide doctor goes limp in protest

November 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

DETROIT -- For the first time since he embarked three years ago on a campaign of physician-assisted suicide, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was jailed yesterday.

His lawyer said the 65-year-old retired pathologist would immediately begin carrying out his long-standing threat that he would starve himself to death rather than remain behind bars.

The jailing followed a tense bail hearing, from which Dr. Kevorkian, grinning broadly, had to be dragged by deputies when he refused to post bond and then went limp in his chair rather than walk from the courtroom under their escort.

Once in an adjoining room, the doctor continued the noncooperation that he had promised if ever taken into custody. Lying on the floor and refusing to stand, he had to be placed in a wheelchair so that officers could move him to the Wayne County Jail, Sheriff Robert Ficano said later.

Dr. Kevorkian's lawyer, Geoffrey N. Fieger, said the prisoner would continue passively resisting and would refuse all efforts to feed him.

"Dr. Kevorkian will be carried every place," Mr. Fieger said. "He will not accede to any type of movement or anything. He will have to be dragged and carried. His life is at an end."

But Sheriff Ficano said that if necessary, the authorities would seek a court order allowing them to force-feed the prisoner. The sheriff also said that Dr. Kevorkian would be sequestered from other prisoners and that physicians would monitor him closely.

"If you're asking whether we are going to let him die in our custody," the sheriff said, "the answer is no."

The jailing was the culmination of Dr. Kevorkian's repeated challenge to the authorities that they take him into custody, his way of intensifying a battle against a new Michigan law that makes suicide assistance a felony carrying a four-year prison term.

"This is what I want," he told a reporter only minutes before he was hauled from the courtroom. "It's my life or this immoral law."

Dr. Kevorkian, who has helped 19 severely ill people kill themselves in the Detroit area since 1990, is awaiting trial on charges that he violated the new law twice in Wayne County last summer.

Bail on the first of those two cases was at issue in the hearing yesterday. The prosecution had asked that bail in that case be raised from the previously set $10,000 personal bond, which did not require the posting of any cash, to $20,000 and a 10 percent posting because Dr. Kevorkian had continued to flout the law by assisting in the second suicide.

As the hearing drew to an end, Judge Thomas E. Jackson of Detroit Recorder's Court granted the prosecution's request. But Dr. Kevorkian had frequently made clear that he would never post bond or allow anyone to post it for him.

As a result, he was not even asked in court yesterday whether he could meet bail. When the hearing closed, the officers simply approached to escort him out.

Dr. Kevorkian was late for the hearing, and Judge Jackson ordered Mr. Fieger to produce him or prepare for the doctor's immediate arrest.

Once Dr. Kevorkian arrived, the proceedings were repeatedly punctuated by sharp exchanges between the judge and Mr. Fieger. When Mr. Fieger sought to compare Dr. Kevorkian to black students who had staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the South, Judge Jackson, who is black, said, "I don't need a history lecture from you."

Dr. Kevorkian lives in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak and has many supporters in the area. Among them are survivors of the people whom he has helped to kill themselves.

Cheryl Gale, whose husband, Hugh, committed suicide with the doctor's assistance in February, said yesterday that supporters would demonstrate outside the Wayne County Jail today.

"I don't understand the criminal justice system," she said. "They set the murderers and rapists out and jail this man, who has done so much to help people."

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