Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

For most people, death is an uncomfortable topic, particularly one’s own mortality. We speak of people “passing,,” not dying. We choose healthy lifestyle, hoping to postpone the inevitable.

Others challenge the actuarial tables by smoking, drinking excessively, eating as much and whatever whenever, driving without seat belts, or something else society warns us not to do.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Only the good die young?

Regardless of our personal life style, regardless of others’ life styles, death comes. to the young, the old, those between, those healthy, and those ill. To all.

Many dream of a quiet death surrounded by loved ones who had the time to get to their bedside in a comfortable setting and with had the time to impart sage advice. Forgiveness.

For others, death  comes as a horrifically slow and painful chronic illness. 

Jack Kevorkian hoped to provide solace to the latter. 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Early life

Kevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on May 26, 1928.In 1952, he graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. His parents had survived the Armenian holocaust in Turkey.

As a young doctor, some of his views were medically and socially non-traditional. For example, he proposed that society give death row prisoners  the choice to undergo capital punishment by medical experimentation while under anesthesia. 

The medical community denied any such procedure.

Kevorkian proposed, based on successful research, the transfusion of blood from dead patients to patients in need of blood. He proposed the idea to the military.

The military denied such a procedure.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Euthanasia

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

It is no surprise, then, that euthanasia became on of Kevorkian’s interests and on June 4, 1990 he was present at the death of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

Her death occurred in Kevorkian’s 1968 Volkswagen van in Groveland Oaks Park near Holly, Michigan. 

He used a device he developed called that “Thanatron” from the Greek works for death and machine. It worked by the patient pushing a button to deliver the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. It had three canisters mounted on a metal frame. Each bottle had a syringe that connected to a single IV line in the person’s arm. One contained saline, another contained a sleep-inducing barbiturate called sodium thiopental and the third a lethal mixture of potassium chloride, which immediately stopped the heart, and pancuronium bromide, a paralytic medication to prevent spasms during the dying process.

On June 5 he gave an interview to the NY Times about Adkins. In it he prophetically said that, “”They’ll all be after me for this. My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience. I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Legal issues begin

June 8, 1990: an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge enjoined Kevorkian from aiding in any suicides.

December 12, 1990: District Court Judge Gerald McNally dismissed the murder charge against Kevorkian in death of Adkins.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1991

February 5, 1991: a Michigan court barred Kevorkian from assisting in suicides.

October 23, 1991:  Kevokian attended the deaths of Marjorie Wantz, a 58-year-old Sodus, Michigan, woman with pelvic pain, and Sherry Miller, a 43-year-old Roseville, Michigan, woman with multiple sclerosis. The deaths occur at a rented state park cabin near Lake Orion, Michigan. Wantz died from the suicide machine’s lethal drugs, Miller from carbon monoxide poisoning inhaled through a face mask.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Kevorkian would stop using the Thantran and began to use what he called the Mercitron (“mercy machine”).  The Mercitron used a mask through which a person inhaled carbon dioxide. 

November 20, 1991: the Michigan state Board of Medicine summarily revoked Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1992

May 15, 1992: Susan Williams, a 52-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Clawson, Michigan.

July 21, 1992: Oakland County Circuit Court Judge David Breck dismissed charges against Kevorkian in the deaths of Miller and Wantz.

September 26, 1992: Lois Hawes, 52, a Warren, Michigan, woman with lung and brain cancer, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning at the home of Kevorkian’s assistant Neal Nicol in Waterford Township, Michigan.

November 23, 1992: Catherine Andreyev of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, died in Kevorkian’s assistant Neil Nicol’s home. She was 45 and had cancer. Hers is the first of 10 deaths Kevorkian attended over the next three months; all die from inhaling carbon monoxide.

December 3, 1992: The Michigan Legislature passed a ban on assisted suicide to take effect on March 30, 1993.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1993

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian
May 31, 1993 edition of Time magazine

February 15, 1993: Hugh Gale, a 70-year-old man with emphysema and congestive heart disease, died in his Roseville home. Prosecutors investigated after Right-to-Life advocates said that they found papers that showed Kevorkian altered his account of Gale’s death, deleting a reference to a request by Gale to halt the procedure.

The investigator’s follow up investigation read: “It is my decision that no charges will be filed against Dr. Jack Kevorkian or any other person in connection with the death of Hugh Gale. Mr. Gale’s death can only be regarded as a suicide. Those present at the time of his death did nothing more than provide the means for him to accomplish a result that he desired. The great weight of evidence is that he never faltered in that desire up to the point that he lost consciousness.”

February 25, 1993: Michigan Governor John Engler signs the legislation banning assisted suicide. It makes aiding in a suicide a four-year felony but allows law to expire after a blue-ribbon commission studies permanent legislation.

April 27, 1993: a California law judge suspended Kevokian’s medical license after a request from that state’s medical board.

August 4, 1993: Thomas Hyde, a 30-year-old Novi, Michigan, man with ALS, is found dead in Kevorkian’s van on Belle Isle, a Detroit park.

September 9, 1993: hours after a judge ordered him to stand trial in Thomas Hyde’s death, Kevorkian is present at the death of cancer patient Donald O’Keefe, 73, in Redford Township, Michigan.

November 5 – 8, 1993: Kevorkian fasts in Detroit jail after refusing to post $20,000 bond in case involving Hyde’s death.

November 29, 1993: Kevorkian begins fast in Oakland County jail for refusing to post $50,000 bond after being charged in the October death of Merian Frederick, 72. 

December 17, 1993: he ended fast and left jail after Oakland County Circuit Court Judge reduced bond to $100 in exchange for his vow not to assist in any more suicides until state courts resolved the legality of his practice.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1994

January 27, 1994:  a Circuit Court Judge dismissed charges against Kevorkian in two deaths, becoming the fifth lower court judge in Michigan to rule that assisted suicide was a constitutional right.

May 2, 1994: a Detroit jury acquitted Kevorkian of charges he violated the state’s assisted suicide ban in the death of Thomas Hyde.

May 10, 1994: The Michigan Court of Appeals strikes down the state’s ban on assisted suicide on the grounds it was enacted unlawfully.

November 8, 1994: Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters passed a tightly restricted Death with Dignity Act. Legal appeals kept the law from taking effect until 1997.

November 26, 1994: hours after Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide expired, 72-year-old Margaret Garrish died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Royal Oak. She had arthritis and osteoporosis. Kevorkian was not present when police arrived. 

December 13, 1994: the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Michigan’s 1993-94 ban on assisted suicide and also rules assisted suicide is illegal in Michigan under common law. The ruling reinstated cases against Kevorkian in four deaths

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1995

June 26, 1995: Kevorkian opened a “suicide clinic” in an office in Springfield Township, Michigan. Erika Garcellano, a 60-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, woman with ALS, is the first client. A few days later, the building’s owner kicks out Kevorkian.

September 14, 1995: Kevorkian arrived at the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, Michigan in homemade stocks with ball and chain. He is ordered to stand trial for assisting in the 1991 suicides of Sherry Miller and Marjorie Wantz.

October 30, 1995: a group of doctors and other medical experts in Michigan announced its support of Kevorkian , saying they will draw up a set of guiding principles for the “merciful, dignified, medically-assisted termination of life.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1996

February 1, 1996: the New England Journal of Medicine published massive studies of physicians’ attitudes towards doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon and Michigan. The studies demonstrated that a large number of physicians surveyed support, in some conditions, doctor-assisted suicide. [2000 NEJM article]

March 6, 1996, : the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have a constitutional right to aid in dying from doctors, health care workers and family members. It is the first time a federal appeals court endorses assisted suicide.

March 8, 1996,  a jury acquitted Kevorkian in two deaths. 

March 20, 1996: Rep Dave Camp (R-MI), introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to prohibit tax-payer funding of assisted suicide.

April 1, 1996,  trial began in Kevorkian’s home town of Pontiac in the deaths of Miller and Wantz. For the start of his third criminal trial, he wears colonial costume–tights, a white powdered wig, and big buckle shoes–a protest against the fact that he is being tried under centuries-old common law. He would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted in the Wantz/Miller deaths.

May 14, 1996: jury acquitted Kevorkian.

November 4, 1996: Kevorkian’s lawyer announced a previously unreported assisted suicide of a 54-year-old woman. This brought the total number of his assisted suicides, since 1990, to 46.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1997

June 12, 1997, in Kevorkian’s fourth trial, a judge declared a mistrial. The prosecution later dropped the case.

June 26, 1997: in Washington v. Glucksberg. The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that state governments have the right to outlaw doctor-assisted suicide. The Court had been asked to decide whether state laws banning the practice in New York and Washington were unconstitutional. (Oyez article)

October 27,  1997: the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which voters had approved by referendum on November 8, 1994, and which allowed voluntary end of life, took effect on this day. The law allowed individuals to voluntarily end their own lives by ingesting a life-ending drug that a licensed physician prescribed.

The law has survived two challenges. Oregon voters rejected a repeal measure by a margin of 60 percent in 1997. And in 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the law, in Gonzales v. Oregon. (Oregon Health Authority article)

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1998

March 14, 1998: Kevorkian’s 100th assisted suicide, a 66-year-old Detroit man.

September 1, 1998: Michigan’s second law outlawing physician-assisted suicide goes into effect.

September 17, 1998: Kevorkian videotapesd the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, 52, who was in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He sent the tape to CBS.

November 3, 1998: Michigan voters rejected a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

November 22, 1998: CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired Kevorkian’s videotape of Thomas Youk.  The broadcast triggered an intense debate within medical, legal and media circles. [60 Minutes Overtime article]

November 25, 1998:  Michigan charged Kevorkian with first-degree murder, violating the assisted suicide law and delivering a controlled substance without a license in the death of Thomas Youk. Prosecutors later drop the suicide charge. Kevorkian insists on defending himself during the trial and threatens to starve himself if he is sent to jail.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1999

March 26, 1999: Kevorkian convicted of second-degree murder for giving a lethal injection to an ailing man whose death was shown on “60 Minutes.”

April 13, 1999: Michigan judge Jessica Cooper of Oakland County Circuit Court sentenced Kevorkian to 10 – 25 years in prison for conviction of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in the death of Thomas Youk. [CNN article]

Cooper denied bail pending appeal and said to Kevorkian that, “This trial was not about the political or moral correctness of euthanasia…It was about you, sir. It was about lawlessness.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

21st Century

September 29, 2005: in an MSNBC interview, by Rita Cosby Kevorkian said that if he were granted parole, he would not resume directly helping people die and would restrict himself to campaigning to have the law changed.

When asked if he had any regrets, he responded: “Well, I do a little.  It was disappointing because what I did turned out to be in vain, even though I know it could possibly end that way.  And my only regret was not having done it through the legal system, through legislation, possibly.”

December 22, 2005: Kevorkian was again denied parole by a board.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Paroled

June 1, 2007: paroled for good behavior. He had spent eight years and two and a half months in prison. On June 4, the NY Times published an interview with him following his release.

In it he said that, ““I said I won’t do it again,” he said, “and it’s not even worth doing again by me because it’d be counterproductive to what I’m fighting for. It’s up to others. If you people don’t want that right, then don’t do it. Then let your government trample all over you. If you don’t want to do it, it’s all right by me, but you don’t get me talking about it and going back to that thing called prison.”

Doctor Jacob Jack KevorkianApril 14 , 2010: the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack premiered at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Kevorkian walked the red carpet alongside Al Pacino, who portrayed him in the film. Pacino received Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his portrayal, and personally thanked Kevorkian, who was in the audience, upon receiving both of these awards. Kevorkian stated that both the film and Pacino’s performance “brings tears to my eyes – and I lived through it.”

New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley wrote, “When it comes to assisted suicide, it is possible to love the sin and hate the sinner.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Death

June 3, 2011: Kevorkian died after being hospitalized with kidney problems and pneumonia eight days earlier. (NYT obit)

Many of the dates from this chronology come from  PBS dot org Frontline 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Percussionist Bobby Torres

How do you get your ticket punched for Woodstock?  Many ways. For Bobby Torres it was to begin by growing up in New York City, the child of parents from Puerto Rico, and to love playing the congas.

OK, but what about becoming part of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band?

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Grease Band

Well, in 1969 [in an interview with Mike Walker] Bobby relates: I saw him in 1969 playing at Fillmore East, playing with Rod Stewart and the Faces. He had the hit “Feelin’ Alright,” which was recorded with a conga player, but when he played it live he didn’t have a conga player. So he was billed at the Fillmore East, and he went to Ungano’s where I was playing on a Monday night, and asked me if I could sit in. And I said, “Sure.””

Percussionist Bobby Torres

LA > Portland > Tom Jones

The Grease Band disbanded soon after Joe Cocker left them and Bobby Torres moved to Los Angeles for the 70s where he became a key session player and then in the 80s he moved to Portland, Oregon but was often on the road as part of singer Tom Jones’s band.

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Bobby Torres Ensemble

By the 90s, Bobby Torres was back full time in Portland and became in integral part of that city’s musical scene, both jazz and Latin, with his Bobby Torres Ensemble.

Mike Walker of Portland’s McMenamins Crystal Ballroom says that, “Bobby’s ensemble has been a monthly feature of the Crystal Ballroom’s Salsa con Sabor program, staged weekly in Lola’s Room on the building’s second floor. “

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Tito Puente

Bobby Torres wants everyone to know that his musical hero is musician, songwriter and record producer, the The King of Latin Music Tito Puente. Puente was based in New York City and Torres went to hear him play whenever given the chance.

Percussionist Bobby Torres

More recently

2009
  • inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame
  • performed for Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • Time Magazine published “Woodstock, How Does it Sound 40 Years Later?” an article which included a photo of Bobby in performance on stage with Joe Cocker at Woodstock
2015
  • Bobby performed with the Tadeschi Trucks band to a crowd of over 25,000 people at the Lockin’ Festival in Virginia. This concert was a tribute to Joe Cocker and featured many of the original members of Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
2016

Bobby was given the Jazz Journalist’s Association Jazz Hero Award. This award is given to advocates, altruists, activists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities.

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Nowadays

He’s still busy…just as he’s been for decades.

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Percussionist Bobby Torres

The Letter

Percussionist Bobby Torres

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

There is a sufficient Wikipedia entry  and an interview at the 4WaySite to suggest that a blogger could create a worthwhile post about Greg Reeves.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

One would think.

Reeves, as most 60s rock fans remember, was the bassist for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and played with them at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Solid.

After that, things are a bit hazy, but we are talking about the 60s and Woodstock alum.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

A few grains of salt

In the 4Way interview, Reeves says that, “…the very first instrument I learned to play was a miniature guitar… I taught myself from a book that came with the guitar. I was six-years-old and in the first grade.

His Wikipedia entry also states that “he may have graduated from Warren Western Reserve High School in Warren, Ohio in 1968.” If so, he graduated at the age of 13.  He must have skipped a few grades between first grade and high school.

Certainly not impossible, but implausible.

If his Wikipedia birth date  is correct (April 7, 1955) then Reeves was certainly the youngest performer at Woodstock: 14 years old!

In Reeves evasive words, “I was very young, very young!

Having said that, a December 1969 Rolling Stone article describes a “Greg Reeves, a quiet, 19-year-old .” Seems more likely, eh?

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Motown

Before Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Reeves had a Motown connection via Rick James and Motown producer and writer Norman Whitfield may have recruited Reeves.

All Music states that “The bass player in the recording [Cloud Nine by the Temptations] is Greg Reeves, who was soon to join Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.” Reeves says that while he was slated  to play bass on that song, he (with Whitfield’s suggestion) switched to tambourine.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mynah Birds

Rick James’s wandering music path led him to Canada in the early 60s. There is a story of James getting into a fight there and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson rescuing him. Another story, another time.

In any case, James formed the Mynah Birds and  one of the players in that band was a young Neil Young.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Los Angeles with Rick James

So that it would seem that James introduced Reeves to Young when all three were in Los Angeles in the late 60s…but in the 4Way interview, Reeves explains things this way.

He’d been living with Rick James. Neil Young invited Greg to a party at the house Stephen Stills was renting from Monkee Peter Tork. The next day, “David [Crosby] and Graham [Nash] drove up to the apartment where we lived on Olive Drive at the time, right behind the Playboy Club on Sunset Blvd. From the pool I saw them knock on the door, and Rick yelled for me. They asked Rick James who I was and Rick came, got me and brought me out front to the limousine that Graham Nash and David Crosby were in and asked me in front of them, would I mind going with them to jam. I asked Rick James “Aren’t you coming too?”. He said “They want you to come alone”. I went back to the house, grabbed my Fender precision bass guitar and Gibson acoustic guitar, climbed into the limousine and never came back to Rick’s house again. They would not let me go. From the first time jamming with me, they would not let me leave. I stayed with Stephen Stills, Dallas Taylor and Graham Nash at Peter Tork’s mansion in Studio City.

To this day I don’t how Graham and David knew where Rick and I lived. 

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Here and gone

Reeves recorded and toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from August 1969 to January 1970, including obviously the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

His account of that event is unique. I have read much about Woodstock but had never heard that, “When Graham Nash and me [and Dallas Taylor] arrived at Woodstock, it was raining buckets of water. We came via helicopter. The helicopter crashed landed on the main power line, that was supplying all of the electric power for the concert!

After the crash landing the pilot instructed us not to touch anything in the helicopter and sit still. We did this and it seemed at the time forever. It was hairy scary to say the least! To top off the misery, when it was our turn to play live, we discovered Chris (our roadie) had not flown our equipment to Woodstock correctly. I used Jim Fielder’s bass from Blood Sweat & Tears to play “Sea Of Maddness” with Neil and Dallas Taylor. It was pouring down rain when we performed. Jimmy Lee Marshall Hendrix was on stage with us laughing his ass off at us playing in the rain.”

In September 1969, the band played at that year’s Big Sur festival. You can see Greg in the background during their playing “Down By the River.”

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Stills v Reeves

For various reasons that come at different angles depending on who is doing the talking,  Reeves was asked to leave/was fired in April 1970. One side says Reeves was unreliable and into odd things. Another side says that Stephen Stills had ego issues. In any case, Reeves was gone.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Life post CSN & Y

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Neil Young was his best friend in the band and invited Reeves to play on Neil’s classic 1970 After the Gold Rush album.

Neil was also instrumental in getting Greg out of a Mexican prison. Reeves was there from September of 1977 through April 1978: I spent time in a Mexican jail with the Mexican president’s nephew as a political prisoner, because we had tried to smuggle marijuana across the border. True story! Neil Young sent me money (via Western Union) to pay the Mexican police (Judicial Government Police) for my freedom…

He stayed with music and then went away from music. Again from the (excellent) 4Way interiview: I went back to school and got an associate degree in Mandarin Chinese here in Orange County, Ca. at Coastline College. My transcript shows a 4.0 average – honest injun [smile]. I also got my head together serving God and being, as I am now, totally obedient to God.

The All Music site lists a long credit list. We can finally hear some of the music Greg has been writing all these decades now that he has released a single, Workin’ Man.

Happy birthday Greg. Whenever it is!

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves