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Case of Inmate Asking for Death Could Open Window for Inmate Organ Donations

June 7, 1992

MIAMI (AP) _ A lawyer whose client has volunteered for a death sentence to donate his organs for transplants is calling for even more radical changes in state laws to allow organ donations by inmates.

Electrocution should be eliminated in Florida in favor of death by a form of lethal injection that doesn’t damage organs for transplant, inmates serving life sentences should be allowed to opt for death, and other inmates should be allowed to donate organs to get time off their sentences, attorney Ellis Rubin said Friday.

″I want to create two or three issues that I want to be debated in this country,″ Rubin said after outlining his ideas in a speech to the Florida Optometric Association in Miami Beach.

The idea of organ donations by inmates who face neither the death penalty nor life sentences would benefit about 25,000 Americans in need of transplants each year, he said. Those prisoners would get time off their sentence, he said.

But Robyn Blumner, state director of the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected the live donor option as ″highly coercive, ghoulishly coercive.″

Daniel Faries, Rubin’s client, is serving a 37-year sentence for murder and was featured on ″60 Minutes″ for running a jailhouse credit-card scam.

He wrote a letter in March asking to be put to death and citing a psychological test to show his mental competence.

″There is a virtually endless list of ‘law abiding’ citizens waiting to receive healthy organs for transplantation,″ the 43-year-old Faries wrote. ″Why, since I’m going to die anyway, should these deserving people be denied access to my organs.″

Rubin filed a petition for Faries last week to change Florida’s method of execution and make him eligible. Electrocution ruins organs so that they can’t be used for transplants.

Rubin amended the motion Thursday to widen the window on inmate organ donations. They are banned because Florida prisoners who die in custody are subject to autopsies.

Death by electrocution is the only form of death penalty in Florida, and legislative efforts in recent years to add an option for or switch to lethal injection have failed.

Rubin also proposed changing state sentencing guidelines to allow elective executions for inmates sentenced to life terms. He said he saw no similarity between his proposal and the assisted suicide case of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Michigan.

″It’s not an attempt to commit suicide,″ Rubin said. ″It’s an attempt to pay back society.″

The ACLU supports the right of adults to commit suicide, but Blumner said it would be difficult to fashion an inmate’s elective execution ″to provide assurance that this is a chosen suicide.″

Faries was convicted in 1990 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of David Burzell during a cocaine- and alcohol-fed argument. While awaiting trial, Faries bought and sold goods by phone from jail using stolen credit card numbers.

The Secret Service determined the losses hit $750,000 from January until November 1989 alone but believe total losses may have reached $2 million to $4 million.

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