People v. Kevorkian

Decision Date13 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. 1,Docket Nos. 99591,99752,99758 and 99759,99674,1
Citation527 N.W.2d 714,447 Mich. 436
Parties, 63 USLW 2393 PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee, v. Jack KEVORKIAN, Defendant-Appellee, Cross-Appellant. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jack KEVORKIAN, Defendant-Appellant. Teresa HOBBINS, Marie DeFord, Kenneth A. Shapiro, Kenneth Weinberger, William Drake, Elliot D. Luby, Norman Bolton, Kenneth Tucker, Kathryn Upton, and B. Elliot Gryson, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. ATTORNEY GENERAL of Michigan, Defendant-Appellant. Teresa HOBBINS, Marie DeFord, Kenneth A. Shapiro, Kenneth Weinberger, William Drake, Elliot D. Luby, Norman Bolton, Kenneth Tucker, Kathryn Upton, and B. Elliot Gryson, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. ATTORNEY GENERAL of Michigan, Defendant-Appellee. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Jack KEVORKIAN, Defendant-Appellee. Calendar
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., John D. O'Hair, Wayne County Pros. Atty., and Timothy A. Baughman, Chief, Research, Training and Appeals, Detroit, for the People.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., Richard Thompson, Oakland County Pros. Atty., and Errol Shifman, Asst. Pros. Atty., Pontiac, for the People.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., Richard Thompson, Oakland County Pros. Atty., Joyce F. Todd, Chief, Appellate Div., and Richard H. Browne, Asst. Pros. Atty., Pontiac, for the People.

Robert A. Sedler, Paul J. Denenfeld, Elizabeth Gleicher, Detroit, and Eugene Feingold, Ann Arbor, for plaintiffs in Hobbins.

Fieger, Fieger & Schwartz, P.C. by Geoffrey Nels Fieger, Pamela A. Hamway and Michael Alan Schwartz, Southfield, for Jack Kevorkian.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., Deborah Anne Devine, Asst. Atty. Gen. In Charge, and Thomas C. Nelson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Lansing, for defendant in Hobbins.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., John D. O'Hair and Timothy A. Baughman, Detroit, for amicus curiae, the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office.

Steven A. Transeth, Lansing, for amici curiae, Paul C. Hillegonds, Co-Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Curtis Hertel, Co-Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Dick Posthumus, Majority Leader of the Michigan Senate, and Arthur J. Miller, Jr., Minority Leader of the Michigan Senate.

Bodman, Longley & Dahling by Joseph A. Sullivan and Martha B. Goodloe, Troy, for amicus curiae, the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Joseph P. Zanglin, Detroit, Paul Benjamin Linton and Clarke D. Forsythe, Chicago, IL, for amici curiae, Michigan State Senators and Representatives.

James W. Kraayeveld, Local Counsel, Grand Rapids, and James Bopp, Jr., Thomas J. Marzen, Daniel Avila, John Altomare and Jane E.T. Brockmann, Co-Counsel, Indianapolis, IN, for amici curiae, the Michigan Handicapper Caucus and the Ethics and Advocacy Task Force of the Nursing Home Action Group.

Charles Kleinbrook, P.C. by Charles Kleinbrook, Southfield, and Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom by James Bopp, Jr. and Richard E. Coleson, Terre Haute, IN, for amicus curiae, the National Right to Life Committee, Inc.

Curcio & Martell by Elizabeth A. Curcio and Marie E. Martell, East Lansing, for amicus curiae, Right to Life of Michigan.

Butler & Modelski, P.C. by Michael J. Modelski, Sylvan Lake, and Wesley J. Smith, San Francisco, CA, for amicus curiae, International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force.

Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn by John D. Pirich and Timothy Sawyer Knowlton, Lansing, Kirk B. Johnson, David Orentlicher, Michael L. Ile, and Sidley & Austin by Jack R. Bierig, Chicago, IL, and Paul E. Kalb, Washington, DC, for amicus curiae, American Medical Association.

Camille Abood, Lansing, and J. Thomas Smith, Jr., Franklin, TN, for amici curiae, America 21, Family Values for the 21st Century.

MEMORANDUM OPINION.

These cases raise three issues with regard to the state's imposition of criminal responsibility on persons who assist others in committing suicide. Two questions are presented by the appeals in Docket Nos. 99591, 99752, 99758, and 99759: (1) whether the Michigan assisted suicide statute, M.C.L. § 752.1027; M.S.A. § 28.547(127), was enacted in violation of Const.1963, art. 4, § 24; (2) whether the criminal provisions of M.C.L. § 752.1027; M.S.A. § 28.547(127) violate the United States Constitution. In Docket No. 99674, a case predating the assisted suicide statute, the question presented is: (3) whether the circuit court erred in quashing the information charging the defendant with murder.

A majority of the justices is of the opinion that:

1) The assisted suicide provisions of the statute were validly enacted and do not violate the Title-Object Clause of the Michigan Constitution. (Cavanagh, C.J., and Levin, Brickley, Boyle, Riley, Griffin, and Mallett, JJ.)

2) The United States Constitution does not prohibit a state from imposing criminal penalties on one who assists another in committing suicide. (Cavanagh, C.J., and Brickley, Boyle, Riley, and Griffin, JJ.)

3) In the murder case, People v. Roberts, 211 Mich. 187; 178 N.W. 690 (1920), is overruled to the extent that it can be read to support the view that the common-law definition of murder encompasses the act of intentionally providing the means by which a person commits suicide. Only where there is probable cause to believe that death was the direct and natural result of a defendant's act can the defendant be properly bound over on a charge of murder. Where a defendant merely is involved in the events leading up to the death, such as providing the means, the proper charge is assisting in a suicide, which may be prosecuted as a common-law felony under the saving clause, M.C.L. § 750.505; M.S.A. § 28.773, in the absence of a statute that specifically prohibits assisting in a suicide. (Cavanagh, C.J., and Levin, Brickley, Griffin, and Mallett, JJ.)

4) The motion to quash must be reconsidered by the circuit court to determine whether the evidence produced at the preliminary examination was sufficient to bind the defendant over for trial. (Cavanagh, C.J., and Brickley, Griffin, and Mallett, JJ.)

We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals in People v. Kevorkian, Docket No. 99591, and People v. Kevorkian, Docket No. 99759, and remand the cases to the respective circuit courts for further proceedings. In Hobbins v. Attorney General, Docket Nos. 99752 and 99758, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals with regard to the claimed violation of Const.1963, art. 4, § 24, and affirm in all other respects. Finally, in People v. Kevorkian, 205 Mich.App. 180, 517 N.W.2d 293, (1994), we vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals, and remand the case to the circuit court for further proceedings.

This memorandum opinion is signed by the seven justices. There are separate concurring and dissenting opinions. However, at least four justices concur in every holding statement, and disposition of this memorandum opinion.

MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH, Chief Justice, and BRICKLEY and ROBERT P. GRIFFIN, Justices.

These cases raise three issues with regard to the state's imposition of criminal responsibility on persons who assist others in committing suicide. Two questions are presented by the appeals in Docket Nos. 99591, 99752, 99758, and 99759: (1) Whether the Michigan assisted suicide statute, M.C.L. § 752.1027; M.S.A. § 28.547(127), was enacted in violation of Const.1963, art. 4 § 24. (2) Whether the criminal provisions of M.C.L. § 752.1027; M.S.A. § 28.547(127) violate the United States Constitution. In Docket No. 99674, a case predating the assisted suicide statute, the question presented is: (3) Whether the circuit court erred in quashing the information charging the defendant with murder.

We conclude: (1) the assisted suicide provisions of the statute were validly enacted and do not violate the Title-Object Clause of the Michigan Constitution; (2) the United States Constitution does not prohibit a state from imposing criminal penalties on one who assists another in committing suicide; (3) in the murder case, the motion to quash must be reconsidered by the circuit court to determine if the evidence produced at the preliminary examination was sufficient to bind the defendant over for trial.

I

Hobbins v. Attorney General

(Docket Nos. 99752, 99758)

The "Declaratory Judgment Action"

Shortly after the Legislature enacted the assisted suicide statute, a group of plaintiffs, two of whom are alleged to be suffering from terminal cancer, a friend of one of them, and seven medical care professionals, brought an action in Wayne Circuit Court, seeking a declaration that the statute was unconstitutional. The parties moved for summary judgment and the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the statute. The circuit court found the statute to be unconstitutional. 1 First, it concluded that there were two violations of Const.1963, art. 4, § 24: the statute did not have a single object, and there was a change in the purpose of the bill during its passage through the Legislature. Second, the court found a due process right to commit suicide. However, it declined to issue a preliminary injunction, concluding that hearings would be needed to determine whether the statute placed an undue burden on that right. The Attorney General filed a claim of appeal in the Court of Appeals.

People v. Kevorkian

(Docket No. 99591)

The "Wayne County Assisted Suicide Case"

Also after the enactment of the assisted suicide statute, defendant Kevorkian is alleged to have assisted in the death of Donald O'Keefe. The defendant was charged under the statute and bound over after preliminary examination. He moved to dismiss, and the circuit court granted the motion. The court rejected the art. 4, § 24 challenges to the statute, but found a due process interest in...

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