Dr. Jack Kevorkian stopped up his ears in a gesture of disdain Tuesday as lawyers at his assisted-suicide trial argued over whether his primary intent was to relieve suffering or simply to kill.
Kevorkian put his fingers and, at times, cotton balls in his ears during opening arguments and initial testimony.
“Are you listening to this crap?” he said. He said he was instead reading a list of words to strengthen his vocabulary.
The 67-year-old retired pathologist is accused of assisting in the 1993 deaths of Merian Frederick, 72, of Ann Arbor, and Dr. Ali Khalili, 61, of Oak Brook, Ill. They died by inhaling carbon monoxide.
The case is expected to hinge on what some see as a loophole in Michigan’s now-expired assisted-suicide law, under which Kevorkian was charged.
It provided an exception for someone who administered “medications or procedures if the intent is to relieve pain or discomfort and not to cause death, even if the medication or procedure may hasten or increase the risk of death.”
During opening arguments Tuesday, defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger said relieving pain was the doctor’s intention.
He told the jury that for Kevorkian’s patients, death was the only choice. He asked the jurors what they would do if they took a sick pet to a veterinarian and were told the only humane option was to put the animal to sleep.
But prosecutor John Skrzynski said there is only one reason to use carbon monoxide: to kill.
“What this trial is about is the deaths of two people, Merian Frederick and Ali Khalili. And what this trial is about is the conduct of the defendant, and whether that conduct is illegal.”
Kevorkian has assisted in at least 27 suicides since 1990. The only other time he stood trial was in 1994, and he was acquitted.