PHOENIX, April 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A jury found the medical director of Final Exit Network, a national right-to-die group, innocent of conspiring to assist in a suicide, but could not reach a verdict as to one of the organization's "exit guides."
After a two-week trial, the Maricopa County Superior Court jury deliberated from Tuesday through Thursday before finding Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert, 83, of Baltimore, the Network's volunteer medical director, not guilty of conspiracy to commit manslaughter by aiding in a suicide.
The eight-member jury could not reach a unanimous verdict as to Franklin R. Langsner, 86, a suburban Phoenix resident and "exit guide" for the Network, who was charged with manslaughter by aiding in a suicide and with conspiracy. The jury voted 7 to 1 to acquit Langsner of conspiracy, and 4-4 to acquit him of aiding in a suicide.
The result of the two-week trial was a blow to the Phoenix police and the Maricopa County sheriff and prosecutor's offices. They had conducted an extraordinarily expensive, nationwide investigation in an effort to charge and convict the Network's volunteers.
The Maricopa County sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ("GBI") have unsuccessfully solicited hundreds of other law enforcement agencies across the country to charge the Network's volunteers with crimes in connection with other deaths.
The 3,000-member not-for-profit Georgia corporation argues that "mentally competent adults have a basic human right to end their lives when they suffer from a fatal or irreversible illness or intractable pain, when their quality of life is personally unacceptable, and the future holds only hopelessness and misery," according to its website (http://www.finalexitnetwork.com).
The all-volunteer Network insists that under protocols followed for years, they "do not encourage anyone to end their life, do not provide the means to do so, and do not actively assist in a person's death" when a member performs his or her own "self-deliverance." Instead, they say, they provide their members with "support" in suicides - in the form of information, education, and a compassionate presence - "when medical circumstances warrant" the members' decision to end their lives.
"Members of the Network's leadership were charged with serious crimes for exercising their First Amendment-protected right to support an individual's right to die, having provided only information, literature, and counseling on how they could safely and effectively terminate their own suffering," said the Network's president, Jerry Dincin, a retired psychologist who lives in suburban Chicago. "It is outrageous that the law enforcement authorities in Phoenix and Atlanta would spend such resources to hunt down and prosecute our geriatric, compassionate volunteers as if they were a threat to society. Don't they have enough real criminals to chase after?"
Long after the arrests and indictments in early 2009, the Network learned that the Arizona and Georgia police were cooperating not only in their prosecutions, but in an effort to instigate additional charges being brought against the Network all across the country.
"So far, although scores of police agencies have been solicited to investigate local deaths involving exit guides, not a single one has seen fit to waste its time and resources by bringing any charges," said the Network's general counsel, Robert Rivas, of Tallahassee, Florida. "The Atlanta and Phoenix police agencies sought to bankrupt the Network without a fair trial, simply by provoking massive, nationwide investigations. Yet they have failed to find support among other law enforcement agencies, and the Network shows no sign of being defeated by these un-American tactics."
The Network has confirmed investigations in Athens, Ohio; Lincoln, Nebraska; Mount Vernon, Washington; Middlebury, Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; Ann Arbor, Michigan. "We know these were only a small number of the many investigations that were solicited by the Georgia and Arizona authorities," Rivas said, "and none of them took the bait. They examined the facts and said to themselves, 'if these exit guides are not doing anything to actively assist in the suicide, they are not committing a crime.'"
Final Exit Network is a six-year-old non-profit, run exclusively by volunteers and committed to serve many whom other organizations may turn away. More information is available from their website: http://www.finalexitnetwork.org, E-mail to [email protected]. Phone: 866-654-9156.
Contact: Jerry Dincin, 847-607-0711
SOURCE Final Exit Network