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Kevorkian Jurors Describe Prayers, Tears With AM-Kevorkian, Bjt

May 3, 1994

DETROIT (AP) _ The jury that acquitted Dr. Jack Kevorkian wept together, prayed together and shared stories of illness and suffering.

Jurors had no doubt that the self-styled death doctor helped Thomas Hyde kill himself despite Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide.

But why and where Kevorkian did it were crucial in reaching Monday’s verdict of innocent, three jurors said.

″We believe the intent was not to help Hyde commit suicide,″ said juror Gwen Bryson. ″We believe it was to relieve pain and suffering.″

Kevorkian’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, had emphasized a loophole in the law enacted to stop Kevorkian.

He said the law allows for medical procedures intended to end suffering even if they hasten death, and argued that Kevorkian’s only motive was to end the suffering of Hyde, who had the degenerative nerve disorder Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Jurors had listened to testimony describing how the once-athletic Hyde was barely able to walk, talk or eat by the time he died Aug. 4 at age 30.

″I wouldn’t want to suffer like that,″ said Bryson, a certified nursing assistant.

And the jurors shared tearful stories about their own experiences with illness and suffering, panelist Gail Donaldson said.

″Personally, I am against suicide, but I feel each person should be able to make their own choice,″ Donaldson said.

Deliberations began Thursday with a prayer led by a tearful Donaldson. Debate lasted a little more than eight hours over three days.

The first issue the jury wrestled with was where Hyde died.

Fieger claimed the Wayne County court had no jurisdiction because Hyde died in neighboring Oakland County.

Kevorkian initially told authorities Hyde died in a Detroit park in Wayne County but testified during trial that he died in a van behind Kevorkian’s apartment building in the adjacent county.

Judge Thomas E. Jackson had instructed the jury that if they found beyond a reasonable doubt that the suicide did not occur in Wayne County, they had to acquit Kevorkian.

Before adjourning for the weekend, the jury had voted 7-5 to convict, Bryson said. By Monday morning, the vote had changed to 11-1 to acquit.

The debate continued, focusing on the ″intent″ loophole in the law.

″The intent section was what brought everybody back together,″ Bryson said. ″He was really trying to help people out, and I can’t see anything wrong with that.″

Bryson said five of the jurors endorse the idea of assisted suicide and oppose the Michigan law.

″I believe Dr. Kevorkian is doing the right thing, but not necessarily going about it the right way - in the back of a van,″ said juror Anthony Scaife. ″I don’t think that’s a good place for a medical procedure.″

Howard Varinksy, a consultant who helped Fieger pick the panel, said all the jurors had been receptive to the notion of assisted suicide, according to the questionnaires he had them fill out.

″When I walked out of that jury selection, I was clicking my heels,″ he said from his office in Oakland, Calif.

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