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Jeffrey Locker's death ruled murder, not assisted suicide; NYC man Keith Minor convicted

Motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker's murder trial raises questions about assisted suicide
Jeffrey Locker WCBS

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Murder or assisted suicide? That was the  question surrounding the trial of Keith Minor, who said he was helping a debt-ridden motivational speaker kill himself by stabbing him.

The jurors delivered their verdict Thursday - guilty of murder - in the bizarre story of self-help author and business coach Jeffrey Locker's July 2009 death. Minor faces the possibility of life in prison at his sentencing, which is set for April 4.

It was a murder trial that turned into a debate about assisted suicide and its legal limits. What fueled the debate was the fact that this death strayed from the more familiar context of a doctor or loved one helping end the life of someone who's terminally ill.

Locker, 52, was found stabbed in his car in East Harlem, his hands tied behind his back, hours after calling his wife to say he'd gotten a flat tire. Police initially investigated his death as a robbery turned deadly.

But that seemed to not be the case when Minor was arrested a few days later after using Locker's ATM card.

It turns out that Locker had been riding around in an inner-city neighborhood miles away from his suburban home, offering to pay strangers to kill him and make it look like a robbery so his family could collect as much as $18 million in life insurance, according to prosecutors, Minor's statement to the police and evidence presented at trial.

Locker also left a trail of clues about his plan, including computer searches for funeral arrangements, an e-mail to his wife explaining how to divvy up and shield their assets, and purchases of about $14 million in life insurance in his final months, in addition to the $4 million in insurance he already had.

The first man Locker approached agreed to his terms but took the $4,000 and ran, according to prosecutors. Next, Locker approached Minor in East Harlem. Minor, 38, said he initially brushed off Locker's offer, but then began to feel sorry for him as Locker explained his financial problems.

Locker had invested in the $300 million Ponzi scheme run by Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync mastermind Lou Pearlman, and was facing federal bankruptcy.

Minor murdered Locker by stabbing him seven times, prosecutors said. Minor said he just held the knife against the car's steering wheel while Locker repeatedly lunged into it, and a prominent pathologist testified his account was plausible.

Minor's lawyer, Daniel J. Gotlin argued Minor should be acquitted under a state law provision that allows "causing or aiding" a suicide as a defense to certain murder charges. State Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman told the jurors that provision couldn't appy if Minor "actively" caused Loker's death.

Gotlin said he is planning an appeal that would focus the judge's instructions to the jury.

"I'm confident that this case ultimately will be reversed," Gotlin said.

More on Crimesider
February 18, 2011 - Jeffrey Locker's bizarre death: Was fatal stabbing of motivational speaker murder, or assisted suicide?

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