Hero or villain? Murderous or merciful? The jury in Jack Kevorkian, “the Suicide Doctor’s”, trial had to answer this question (Morganthau). Kevorkian was tried for the assisted suicide of Thomas Youk. The jurors had to decide whether to declare Kevorkian responsible for Youk’s death, make Youk responsible for his own fate, or find a compromise of the two. In Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men, a conflicted jury had to decide the verdict of an equally difficult murder case. Any member of the jury for Twelve Angry Men would find the Jack Kevorkian case full of conflicting ideas and would find it difficult to arrive a verdict.
Jack Kevorkian, who called himself the “intellectual heir of Einstein,” assisted in countless suicides; therefore, the Youk suicide was not his first case of euthanasia, assisted suicide, or his first time in court for his actions (Hosenball). According to Crimes and Trials of the Century, “His first trial was for Thomas Hyde- a landscape designer and construction worker with Lou Gehrigs disease which was terminal at age 29” (Chermak). Although Youk’s case was not Kevorkian’s first, it certainly was his most well known. Biography.com states “Kevorkian was prosecuted four times in Michigan for assisted suicides: he was acquitted in three cases and the fourth was declared a mistrial” (“Jack Kevorkian”). Clearly, the possible consequences of his crimes did not affect Kevorkian and he kept assisting people. Although he had many different federal offenses, Kevorkian was not severely punished for his actions until the court case involving Youk.
On May 26th 1999 twelve people of the jury found Jack Kevorkian guilty of murder in the second-degree. Dirk Johnson, a writer for the New York Times stated, “His widow, Melody Youk, gave a statement to the court today that bitterly criticized prosecutors and cast Dr. Kevorkian as someone who was merely carrying out the wishes of her husband” (Johnson). This shows that she did not want the jury and prosecutors to give the obvious decision of guilty, because her husband wanted Jack to do this to him (Johnson 2). He also said, “Every member of the jury had compassion and empathy for Thomas Youk” (Johnson). Since the jury showed compassion and empathy towards Youk, they would be biased in their vote, which would drastically change Jack Kevorkian’s life. The jury should’ve had an easy decision when it came to his trial: “More than 30 states have banned assisted suicide-the act of helping a person take his own life- including Michigan” (McHugh). However, the jury’s verdict wasn’t so easy.
These jurors’ verdict of the court case didn’t come easily or quickly. The verdict stood with a sentence of “25 years in prison with the possibility of parole” (“Jack Kevorkian”). The decision was that of a second-degree murder and Kevorkian was guilty. “There are twelve people on the jury,” explained Johnson, “and only one of them decided to talk to the press after the verdict” (Johnson). Only a well...