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Kevorkian Case: Kevorkian found guilty

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Editor's Note: As part of CNN.com's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from CourtTVNews.com. This story was first published in 1999.

(Court TV) -- After three acquittals and a mistrial, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was found guilty of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance for his role in the death of Lou Gehrig's disease patient Thomas Youk.

Kevorkian did not react as jurors rendered their verdict. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

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It took the jurors over 13 hours to reach their decision. They did not believe he was guilty of first-degree murder, which would have carried a life sentence without parole. The maximum punishment for second-degree murder is a life sentence, but the sentence is left to the discretion of the court. Prosecutors said there are sentencing guidelines that could send Kevorkian to prison between 10 and 25 years. Delivery of a controlled substance is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Judge Jessica Cooper agreed to release Kevorkian until his sentencing on bond and made him promise he would not participate in any assisted suicides or illegal injections.

"I'll do no unlawful activity," Kevorkian said. "I've kept my word until now, and I'll keep it."

The verdict came hours after Kevorkian's lawyer, David Gorosh, indicated that he would file a motion for a mistrial. Friday morning, Kevorkian told Judge Cooper that he would stop representing himself and let Gorosh present legal arguments that may arise. Gorosh's motion for a mistrial is based on prosecutor John Skrzynski's objections during Kevorkian's closing arguments. While objecting to one of Kevorkian's points, Skrzynski said, "He can't testify now. He could have ..." Judge Jessica Cooper stopped Skrzynski before he could finish his statement.

Gorosh claims that Skrzynski suggested that Kevorkian hurt his case by not testifying. Prosecutors are not supposed to criticize defendants' opting not to testify in front of jurors because that is their constitutional right. Kevorkian's lawyers may appeal his conviction on these grounds.

"We obviously disagree with the verdict. It seems hard to believe that we can equate an act of compassion with murder," Gorosh said. "We are going to appeal this verdict on several grounds. It's too bad that the most important people in this case, Melody and Terrence Youk, were not involved in the trial. This is a tragedy ... he had no evil intent. Again, this is not a typical case of murder."

Skrzynski said he was obviously pleased with the verdict and said Kevorkian "took his life by taking someone else's. It was such a useless, wasteful act."

The prosecutor said he did not think the conviction would be overturned on his comments during Kevorkian's closings.

During closing arguments Thursday, Kevorkian told jurors that only he knew his true intent when he helped Youk die. He said he was only doing his duty as a dedicated physician and following Youk's wishes to end his suffering.

"Thomas Youk didn't want to die ... no one does," Kevorkian said. "But there are times when you must because of certain circumstances. The issue here is whether Tom wanted what was done and whether I committed murder in the process of my helping him. That's what you must decide."

Kevorkian stressed that prosecutors can only infer his intentions from the videotapes of Youk's death: only he knows the truth. Kevorkian said that fact presents reasonable doubt over whether he intended to kill Youk. Kevorkian said he was providing a medical service to Youk, and contrary to prosecutors' claims, videotaping the death was not a publicity stunt.

But in his closing arguments, Skrzynski said that the videotape  and the interview with CBS' "60 Minutes"  show that Kevorkian killed Youk to make a political statement on euthanasia. Playing parts of the tape once again for jurors, Skrzynski said Kevorkian made the tape knowing he wanted it presented in a court of law and admitted it to "60 Minutes'" Mike Wallace.

"He has an agenda, to bring this issue before a court. He tells Mike Wallace, 'They must charge me. Either they go or I go ... if they go that means they'll never convict me in a court of law.'" Skrzynski said. "He thinks that prosecutors will charge him with manslaughter, not necessarily murder. That shows that he knew he had killed a man."

Skrzynski emphasized that Kevorkian's trial was not about Youk's illness, euthanasia or the debate over assisted suicide but about the reputed "Dr. Death's" right to kill. He pointed out to jurors that Kevorkian barely knew Youk 24 hours before he killed him. While playing the videotape of Youk's death, Skrzynski said that Kevorkian did not even shut the deceased Youk's mouth before removing the needles hooking him to the medical devices. Skrzynski implied that Kevorkian was only concerned about killing Youk to advance his political agenda, not about the 52-year-old's well-being.

Kevorkian rested his case Thursday morning without calling any witnesses after Judge Cooper rejected his motion to admit the testimony of Youk's widow and brother. His defense was shackled by a pretrial ruling that Youk's pain and suffering was only relevant to assisted suicide and not murder. To prevent Kevorkian from presenting evidence about Youk's condition  and perhaps using the trial as a forum of debate over euthanasia  prosecutors dropped the assisted suicide charge to keep the testimony out of the trial.

Prosecutors initially charged Kevorkian with first-degree murder and assisted suicide after "60 Minutes" showed the tape of Youk's death to a nation-wide audience on Nov. 23. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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