New York — A man who said he helped a debt-ridden motivational speaker kill himself was convicted of murder Thursday in a seeming street crime that turned into an unusual framework for questions about the legal limits of assisted suicide.
Jurors delivered their verdict on the strange story of self-help author and business coach Jeffrey Locker's July 2009 death. The conviction leaves Kenneth Minor facing the possibility of life in prison at his sentencing, set for April 4.
It was a murder trial in which even prosecutors said the slain man wanted to die, and it became a debate about assisted suicide that strayed far from the more familiar context of doctors or loved ones helping terminally ill people end their lives.
"This was murder for money, not a mercy killing, which is why we prosecuted the case as an intentional murder," Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement. "We believe the jurors got it right with their verdict."
Minor's lawyer, Daniel J. Gotlin, said he planned an appeal that would focus on an issue in the judge's instructions to the jury.
"I'm confident that this case ultimately will be reversed," Gotlin said.
Locker, 52, was found stabbed in his car on an East Harlem street, his hands tied behind his back, hours after calling his wife to say he had a flat tire. Police initially investigated his death as the result of a robbery.
But the scenario changed when Minor was arrested a few days later after using Minor's ATM card.
Locker had been cruising an inner-city neighborhood miles 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 police and evidence presented at the trial. A man Locker approached before meeting Minor testified that he agreed to the deal but then took about $4,000 from Locker and ran.
Prosecutors said Minor killed Locker by stabbing him seven times, noting a city medical examiner's testimony that Locker's chest wounds had characteristics indicating he was stabbed by someone next to him.
But Minor said he held a knife against the steering wheel while Locker repeatedly lunged into it, and a prominent pathologist he hired testified that his account was plausible.