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Kevorkian Jury to Stay Mum on Religion, Suicide

February 13, 1996| From Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. — A judge ruled Monday that potential jurors in Dr. Jack Kevorkian's assisted suicide trial cannot be asked about their religious beliefs or their views on a law that banned the practice.

After first approving a defense motion to ask such questions, Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper switched positions and threw out juror questionnaires proposed by both sides.

In her order, the judge told lawyers not to ask any questions that require prospective jurors to reveal their religious beliefs or their views on a now-expired state law banning assisted suicide.

Kevorkian, an outspoken advocate of physician-assisted suicide as an option for the severely ill, is accused of violating the ban by aiding two 1993 deaths.

Merian Frederick, 72, of Ann Arbor had Lou Gehrig's disease, and Dr. Ali Khalili, 61, of Oak Brook, Ill., had bone cancer. Both died after inhaling carbon monoxide.

Earlier this month, Cooper approved a survey by Kevorkian attorney Geoffrey Fieger containing such questions as, "Does your religion forbid suicide?" and, "Do you tithe or contribute a portion of your income to your place of worship?"

Prosecutors appealed Cooper's ruling, arguing that the defense questions would invade jurors' privacy and bias the selection against the prosecution.

Cooper changed her mind after a state appeals court ordered her to submit more information about her original decision in support of Fieger's request.

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