CHICAGO – Jack Kevorkian – the infamous “Dr. Death” considered a remorseless murderer by some and a compassionate physician by others – was released on parole Friday from a Michigan prison after serving eight years.
The frail 79-year-old, wearing his familiar light-blue cardigan and a tie over a button-down shirt and dress slacks, walked slowly out of the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich., and grinned cheerfully.
Telling reporters outside the detention center that leaving prison was one of the “high points of life,” the retired pathologist waved goodbye as he and attorney Mayer Morganroth stepped into a van and drove away.
In December, the Michigan Parole Board granted his request to leave prison early – after eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence for second-degree murder – because of his good behavior and a promise not to conduct more assisted suicides.
“He has been clear: He will not break the law. But he will do what he can to change it,” Morganroth said.
Kevorkian, who will be on parole for two years, is expected to check in with his parole officer weekly. Although he is allowed to publicly advocate his views, state corrections officials say the physician cannot help others build the so-called suicide machine he had used.
In 1998, Kevorkian was accused – and later convicted – of second-degree murder after injecting lethal drugs into Thomas Youk, 52, an Oakland County, Mich., man with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Youk’s death was recorded on a homemade videotape that Kevorkian sent to the TV news show “60 Minutes,” which broadcast it. In the tape, Kevorkian dared the legal system to stop him.
At the time, Kevorkian claimed he had assisted in at least 130 suicides of terminally or chronically ill people.
On Friday, critics were infuriated at the pathologist’s early release: “This is a man who is known to have killed more people than any other person in Michigan’s history, and he’s being set free two years early,” said Paul Long, vice president of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy arm of the state’s Catholic Church. “He’s promised that he would not break the law. But he made those promises through the 1990s, and he never lived up to them.”