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March 23, 1999 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-23

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LOCAL/S TATE

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday. March 23, 1999 - 5

Kevorkian
acts as own
attorneyin
murder trial
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Jack Kevorkian yes-
terday denied he was a murderer, telling a jury he
had only compassion for a man with Lou Gehrig's
disease whose death was shown on "60 Minutes."
Kevorkian presented his own opening statement
to the Oakland County Circuit Court jury after
Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski outlined the
state's case.
The retired pathologist said it made no more sense
to charge him with murder than it would to charge
an executioner.
"To have a crime, you need a vicious will and a
vicious act," Kevorkian said.
That statement led to an objection by Skrzynski
that Kevorkian was using an improper definition
of malice and was arguing law rather than sum-
marizing his case. Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper
agreed, saying Kevorkian needed to argue the
facts, not the law.
Kevorkian is charged with first-degree murder
and delivery of a controlled substance in the Sept.
17, 1998, death ofYouk, a Waterford Township res-
ident. Youk's death was videotaped and portions of
the tape were shown in November on "60 Minutes:"
Two years ago, Youk was diagnosed with amy-
otrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou
Gehrig's disease - a progressively fatal illness that
eventually leaves victims unable to speak, swallow
or move.
Skrzynski reminded the jury that despite the inter-
national publicity that has surrounded Kevorkian
since 1990, the defendant is not above the law.
"Begin to focus on what Jack Kevorkian does,

Meat processor
under investigation

AP PHOTO
Jack Kevorkian smiles before his trial at the Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac yesterday. He is
charged with first-degree murder for the death of Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) - Federal
prosecutors are looking into whether a
Zeeland meat processor linked to a
deadly listeria outbreak broke any laws,
a company spokesperson confirmed
yesterday.
Theresa Herlevsen said Chicago-
based Sara Lee Corp., which owns Bil
Mar Foods in Zeeland, was contacted
earlier this month by federal authorities
interested in the events leading up to
the plant's Dec. 22 recall of 15 million
pounds of hot dogs and deli meats.
Fifteen deaths and six miscarriages
and stillbirths have been linked to a dis-
tinctive strain of listeria bacteria traced
back to Bil Mar Foods.
Bil Mar has since resumed produc-
tion of some of the recalled deli meats
and, late last week, resumed shipping
them.
"It's a fairly routine investigation in
light of the recall," Herlevsen said yes-
terday. "But nevertheless we take it
seriously ... We're cooperating fully."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Grand
Rapids would neither confirm nor deny
the company's statement that it was
investigating.
But a spokesperson for the inspector
general at the Agriculture Department
said an inquiry had begun, although she
would not comment whether a grand
jury proceeding was under way.

"We're conducting an inquiry in
cooperation with the Food Safety
Inspection Service concerning Bil
Mar," Nancy Bartel said. "We're very
early in the process"
The Food Safety Inspection Service
is a division of the USDA.
The inspector general investigates
cases ranging from food stamp abuse to
food safety issues. Bartel declined to
discuss what, if any, criminal charges
were possible against Bil Mar.
Kenneth Moll, a Chicago lawyer who
represents several people suing Sara
Lee for injuries and deaths they allege
were caused by contaminated meat
products, said the federal inquiry has no
immediate bearing on his civil action.
But he said a criminal conviction
could make it easier for his clients
because the evidence requirements in
criminal cases are much stricter than in
civil cases.
"If they're found to be violation of
criminal laws, our burden is much less,'
he said. "A criminal case requires proof
beyond reasonable doubt, a civil case
requires a preponderance of evidence."
Last year, a federal grand jury indict-
ed Arkansas-based Hudson Foods Inc.
on charges the company and two men
falsely told federal food inspectors they
knew the source of E. coli-tainted
ground beef linked to the company.

and what Jack Kevorkian says, and what you will
see is a man breaking the law," the prosecutor said.
"Jack Kevorkian killed Tom Youk, and Jack
Kevorkian does not have the right to kill."
Outside the presence of the jury, Kevorkian
argued that what he wanted to say in his opening
statement was that he had the duty to kill.
"What I was trying to prove here is that I didn't have
the intent to kill, just as the executioner doesn't. His
intent is to do his duty; because he may despise what
he is doing. But he's forced to do it by his position.
"The same with me. I despise a human being
dying at my hands. But my intent isn't to kill a per-
son. I am forced by my position as a physician to do
this. And that is reasonable apprehension."
Kevorkian said he wasn't trying to justify himself,
he was trying to explain himself
"I'm trying to understand the argument," the
judge said. "You're not raising justification. What is
it specifically you are raising?"

"It's another form of excusable homicide. Just like
the executioner is excused, and the soldier is excused
and defense of your life is excused, this is excused,
even though it is not recognized by law ... That does-
n't mean it doesn't exist as an excusable homicide"
The judge told Kevorkian that what he was rais-
ing was an argument of law "and what you need to
argue in front of the jury are facts."
Before the opening statements, Cooper thorough-
ly questioned Kevorkian about whether he under-
stood the risks of defending himself on charges of
first-degree murder and illegal delivery of a con-
trolled substance.
"Do you understand you could spend the rest of
your life in prison?" she asked.
"There's not much of it left," he said.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected
yesterday from a pool of 80 people. Thirty-eight
people were dismissed, many because they said their
beliefs would make it hard for them to be fair.

Student
wins right
'to wear
pentgam
LINCOLN PARK (AP) -A student
and self-proclaimed witch has won her
fight to overturn a Lincoln Park High
Achool policy banning the wearing of
he five-pointed star that is the symbol
of her pagan faith.
The school reversed the policy yes-
terday and agreed to pay the legal costs
of Crystal Seifferly, the American Civil
Liberties Union said.
The ACLU took the Lincoln Park
Public Schools to court over the
ban. At a March 2 hearing before
U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen in
*etroit, it said the district's policy
violated the honor student's reli-
gious rights as a follower of Wicca,
the witches' faith.
Yesterday, the suburban district
agreed to make an exception to its
anti-gang policy for students who
wear the fife-pointed pentagram and
other symbols as a profession of their
religion.
"I'm happy. I'm pleased. I'm glad it's
over," Seifferly said. "The longer it
rent on and the more I thought about
it, the more I realized that it wasn't
about me and just about Wicca. It was
about a lot of other people and reli-
gions."
Lincoln Park schools Superintendent
Randall Kite said the district never
intended to interfere with any student's
religious freedom. He said the high
school had not realized that Wicca was
religion, rather than a gang designa-
on.
"This is the right thing to do," he
said. The ACLU praised the district's
decision.
"We are pleased that Lincoln Park
High School recognizes the importance
of religious freedom for its students;
said ACLU Michigan Executive
Director Kary Moss. "Ms. Seifferly
should be applauded for her courage in
standing up for what she believes is
fght."
In October, Lincoln Park High
School banned the wearing of the pen-
tagram along with white power, gang
and Satanic symbols.
Seifferly filed a lawsuit Feb. 9 seek-
ing to overturn the policy.
Wicca, which sometimes is spelled
Wycca, comes from the Old English
word for witch.
The religions celebrates seasonal
*nd life cycles using rituals from pre-
Christian Europe. Seifferly has prac-
ticed Wicca for several years.
The ban on the pentagram was con-
tained in an October memo from
Lincoln Park High School administra-
tors.
The memo hadlined "GANG/CI T

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