Both Sides May Cheer Kervorkian's Conviction

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After taking part in more than 130 suicides and beating four previous prosecutions for assisting in deaths, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was convicted for the first time on Friday. "This is a big victory for prosecutors who've been trying to put him away for years," says TIME Midwest correspondent Julie Grace. "But they are not the only ones who won't be saddened by this outcome." Indeed, count many right-to-die supporters in that group. "There is much support for the principle of a right to die," says Grace, but many advocates have lamented seeing Kevorkian become the poster boy of the issue. "He's too unpredictable and wacky," says Grace. Some hope his removal from the scene may clear the way for calmer arguments. His theatrics have detracted from addressing the wrenchingly difficult issues of the subject, a fact that Kervorkian himself may have sensed when he said Friday that he no longer wanted to represent himself before the court. But his decision came too late to change the outcome, being announced shortly before the jury delivered its verdict.

His fifth trial involved his most sensational case to date: the videotaped death of a 52-year-old-man afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease that was broadcast nationally on CBS' "60 Minutes" and in which Kevorkian administered the lethal injection himself. This fifth trial was also his most serious yet: Kevorkian was charged with first-degree murder, and the jury convicted him of second-degree murder. The judge set sentencing for April 14, at which time the 70-year-old pathologist could be put away behind bars for life.

The focus of the Kevorkian case will now shift to the sentencing phase and place the spotlight on Judge Jessica Cooper. "She's been meticulously responsible in following the law and explicitly careful to explain everything to Kevorkian, since he chose to represent himself," says Grace. Now, however, it is Cooper who will make the final decision of this difficult case. How harsh should she be on the 70-year-old zealot? Says Grace: "The fact that she let Kevorkian go free pending the sentencing may be an indication that she thinks he's something less than a cold-blooded murderer."