Saturday, June 2, 2007
COLDWATER, Mich., June 1 -- Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist dubbed "Dr. Death" for claims that he had participated in at least 130 assisted suicides, left prison Friday after eight years still believing people have the right to die.
A smiling Kevorkian, 79, said it was "one of the high points in life" as he walked out with his attorney.
Mike Wallace, the correspondent for CBS News's "60 Minutes," whose airing of a Kevorkian-aided suicide led to the charges and Kevorkian's prison term, met Kevorkian outside the prison with an embrace and the words "What do you say, young man?" Kevorkian is to appear in a "60 Minutes" segment Sunday.
"He thanks the thousands who have supported him, have written to him and the enormous amount of people who have really been comfortable in supporting him," said his attorney, Mayer Morganroth. "He just wants a little privacy for the next few days."
Throughout the 1990s, Kevorkian challenged authorities to make his actions legal -- or stop him. He burned state orders against him and showed up at court in costume.
"You think I'm going to obey the law? You're crazy," he said in 1998 shortly before he was accused -- and then convicted -- of murder after injecting lethal drugs into Thomas Youk, 52, a suburban Detroit man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian had videotaped Youk's death and sent the tape to "60 Minutes."
The conviction earned Kevorkian a 10-to-25-year sentence for second-degree murder, but he earned time off for good behavior.
He is expected to move to Bloomfield Hills, just outside Detroit, where he will live with friends and resume the artistic and musical hobbies he missed in prison. His lawyer and friends have said he plans to live on a small pension and Social Security while writing and making speeches.
Kevorkian has promised never to help in another suicide. But Ruth Holmes, who has worked as his legal assistant and handled his correspondence while he was in prison, said his views on the subject have not changed.
In a recent interview, Kevorkian also made it clear that his support for letting people decide when they want to die has not wavered.
"It's got to be legalized. That's the point," he told WJBK-TV in Detroit. "I'll work to have it legalized. But I won't break any laws doing it."
The Michigan Catholic Conference says it will oppose any effort to renew a push for legalizing assisted suicide in Michigan, where it has been banned since 1998.