One Kevorkian Charge Dropped

Prosecutors say they're moving to drop the assisted-suicide charge against Dr. Jack Kevorkian in the videotaped death of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.

But they plan to go ahead with a first-degree murder charge against Kevorkian for last September's death of Thomas Youk. A videotape of Youk's death was later shown on CBS' 60 Minutes.

Kevorkian is also charged with delivery of a controlled substance in connection with the incident.

Prosecutor David Gorcyca said in a statement that the move was due to rulings earlier this week that would have let Kevorkian present at trial, evidence about Youk's pain and suffering.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jessica Cooper said the assisted suicide statute requires prosecutors to show that Youk intended to kill himself, and doing so naturally would bring up testimony about his suffering.

But she said Kevorkian could not present such evidence in defense of the murder charge. "The issue in this case is Kevorkian's right to kill, not his belief in an individual's right to die," Gorcyca said. "We want to focus on Jack Kevorkian's behavior and be certain that jurors are not confused by evidence of Thomas Youk's medical conditions.

He said past juries in Kevorkian cases had been "distracted" by similar pain-and-suffering testimony and he wants this jury to focus on the murder charge.

Family members have said Youk at the time of his death was confined to a wheelchair, was fed through a tube in his stomach and had little movement in his arms and hands.

Kevorkian's trial is scheduled to begin March 22. Assistant Prosecutor John O'Brien said the motion to drop the charges would not delay the case.