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Sentencing/Post Conviction

Faulty jury instructions mean new murder trial for man who said he was assisting a suicide

Posted Oct 4, 2013 2:00 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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A state appeals court has overturned the second-degree murder conviction of a New York man because the jury was improperly instructed on the assisted suicide defense to murder.

Kenneth Minor is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence for the 2009 murder of a Long Island man whom Minor said had enlisted his help in a bizarre scheme to commit suicide and make it look like he was killed in the course of a robbery, the New York Law Journal reports.

The appeals court, in 4-0 ruling Thursday, said the trial court went "substantially beyond" the statutory language of the law when she told the jury that if the defendant "actively" caused the victim's death, even with the victim's consent, it was not assisted suicide because the consent of the victim is not a defense to murder.

"Neither the word 'active,' nor its antonym 'passive,' appears in the statutory language and thus, by giving this charge, the court added an element that is not part of the defense," Justice Rosalyn Richter wrote for the four-judge panel.

The case dates back to July 2009, when Jeffrey Locker, a 52-year-old motivational speaker, was found stabbed to death behind the wheel of his car in upper Manhattan. Police initially thought that Locker had been killed in a robbery but later learned that he had devised an elaborate plot to commit suicide and make it look like he was killed during a robbery so his family could collect on a $12 million life insurance policy.

Minor said Locker, whom he met on the street, paid him to help. He also said that he, following Locker's instructions, took a knife out of the glove box and held it against the steering wheel with the blade facing Locker while Locker leaned forward on it and stabbed himself several times.

Minor's lawyer could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office said they were reviewing the decision.

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