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Defense Attorney Contracdicts Kevorkian’s Account of Suicide

April 21, 1994

DETROIT (AP) _ Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s attorney asserted in opening statements today that the man Kevorkian is accused of helping commit suicide didn’t even die in the county where the self-styled death doctor is being tried.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger challenged Wayne County’s authority to try Kevorkian, asserting the man actually died in Royal Oak in neighboring Oakland County, where Kevorkian lived until his apartment building was torn down.

The claim contradicted Kevorkian’s own account of the Aug. 4 death of Thomas Hyde, who had the degenerative nerve disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Kevorkian has previously said he drove Hyde to Belle Isle, a Detroit River island park, where Hyde died after pulling a string that released carbon monoxide from a canister into a mask through which he was breathing.

Fieger told jurors Kevorkian only drove to Belle Isle to surrender so Detroit ″could be the center of the world’s attention.″

Kevorkian sat casually reading a paperback today during opening statements in his landmark trial on a charge he violated Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide.

This is the first time the 65-year-old retired pathologist has stood trial for helping someone commit suicide, although he has been present at 20 deaths since 1990.

Kevorkian studied ″Reading Japanese″ as Prosecutor Timothy Kenny described the circumstances of Hyde’s death. Hyde’s fiancee, Heidi Fernandez, wept. Fernandez has said she supported Hyde’s wish to die.

A legal expert said he doubted the exact location of the death would have any bearing on the case because Michigan has a unified criminal court syst 56 ?Pp0. 42 r 20: 4 w 1 1:9 92 2t 7 f 41 4 4 307 y7z 4 2y :0 : 2w 3 f 41 4 4 30 7 q0 7 8 9 7 9 2 1: :2 t 46 y 042 i7 129 : i22 629 px 97 3 2 9 97 9w3 v 0 ;p : k 0 7 2 ) :0 : 2j 74 ;2rsity who is challenging the state’s assisted suicide ban in a separate case.

Jurisdictional questions are for judges not juries to decide, Sedler said. He said if a defense attorney generally fails to raise such issues before a trial starts, the attorney gives up the right to do so.

Kenny began calling witnesses late this morning.

The jury includes a housewife, electrician, accountant, student, repairman and department store clerk. Both sides have said they expect the trial to last about two weeks.

If convicted of violating Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide - a ban enacted specifically to stop him - Kevorkian could face four years in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Hyde, 30, who used a wheelchair and could barely talk, made a videotape a month before his suicide saying he wanted to die.

Kevorkian was charged with murder in some deaths before the ban, but those charges were dismissed by judges who ruled that assisting suicide was not a crime then.

Three cases brought against Kevorkian since the ban have been dismissed by judges who ruled that the law is unconstitutional. The state Court of Appeals is considering those cases, as well as a challenge to the law brought by the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union.

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