It is not illegal to commit suicide in Arizona, but helping someone else to commit suicide is. So a Maricopa County Superior Court jury had to determine whether two members of a national organisation had conspired to commit manslaughter in the death of a Phoenix woman.
It is not illegal to commit suicide in Arizona, but helping someone else to commit suicide is. So a Maricopa County Superior Court jury had to determine whether two members of a national organisation had conspired to commit manslaughter in the death of a Phoenix woman. The jury split its decision.
Lawrence Egbert, 83, an anaesthesiologist from Baltimore, was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit manslaughter by aiding suicide in the April 2007 death of Jana Van Voorhis, 58. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision as to whether Franklin Langsner, 86, had committed manslaughter as one of Van Voorhis’ “exit guides”, or whether he was guilty of conspiring with Egbert.
Langsner had no comment. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said they would retry his case. Egbert derided the idea of conspiracy, because they met for the first time in the courtroom. “I only approved of the case,” he said. Egbert is the volunteer director of Final Exit, a national organisation with 3,000 members. He was on his first assignment with the group, and his job was to provide Van Voorhis with counselling and comfort.
According to the lawyers and her family, Van Voorhis suffered from mental illness but was not suffering from physical illnesses – a fact kept from the jury. This is problematic – would the jury have reacted differently if they were given this information? Part of the defence claims involved the careful screening processes that FEN use.
Two other Final Exit volunteers, Wye Hale Rowe, 83, and Roberta Massey, 65, pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of facilitation to commit manslaughter. They have not been sentenced yet. The charges are all probation eligible. “The issue is that the laws aren’t clearly defined,” said Kristen Wright, the lawyer representing Egbert both in the Arizona case and a second case in Georgia. There, Egbert and other volunteers for FEN are charged with racketeering, advertising to assist a suicide and tampering with evidence. It is expected that the trial will start next year. ~ The Arizona Republic, Apr 21; Not Dead Yet (blog), Apr 22
Results of trial of Final Exit Network volunteers
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