Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kansas murder trial, defense claims it was assisted suicide (Day 6).

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week I wrote about the first day of the Heskett murder trial, the second day of the trial, and the third day of the trial, and the fourth day of the trial. This week I wrote about the fifth day of the trial in Eudora Kansas. Today's article focuses on what Heskett's did with the money that went missing from Moulton's apartment.

The trial concerns the death of Vance Moulton (65), who was living with cerebral palsy. Ronald Eugene Heskett (49), who was Moulton's care-giver, was charged with first-degree murder, but he claims that the death was an assisted suicide.

Ronald Heskett
The Lawrence Journal World reported:

Prosecutors in the case of Ronald Eugene Heskett have alleged that Heskett intentionally killed his disabled home-care client Vance “Van” Moulton, 65, of Lawrence, for financial reasons. Heskett, however, has maintained that the death was an assisted suicide. 
Heskett testified Tuesday that after persistent, highly emotional pleadings from Moulton to kill him on Sept. 12, 2014, Heskett ... asphyxiating him to death. Moulton had cerebral palsy and other serious health problems. 
The state has presented witnesses over the past week who said that Moulton before his death cashed $13,000 in government checks, which was never recovered in a search of his home. They showed recorded police interviews with Heskett in which Heskett denied entering any financial agreements with Moulton or taking his money, and they presented evidence of Heskett making uncharacteristically expensive purchases of a 1972 Chevelle and car parts. 
Throughout the trial, that $13,000 has been the crux of the state’s case. 
When Heskett ... testified Tuesday, he admitted the $13,000 had indeed been spent on the car — but only with the authority of Moulton as part of a plan to raise money to buy Moulton a wheelchair-accessible van. 
Heskett on Tuesday said, as other witnesses had testified over the past week, that Moulton yearned for a wheelchair-accessible van to ride in and gain more independence. Heskett said he’d gone to look for an accessible van at Moulton’s request, and told Moulton it would cost about $40,000 — an amount far greater than the $13,193.18 total received from his government checks. 
Heskett said Moulton knew Heskett restored old cars as a hobby, and the two would regularly watch car auction shows on TV together. So, when thinking about how to get more money for Moulton to buy a van, Heskett said he and Moulton devised a plan to invest in a 1972 Chevelle to fix up and sell for $25,000. 
Heskett said that he put in the work, the time and around $1,500 of his own money into the car, and that he and Moulton agreed to split profits, with Moulton receiving 75 percent and Heskett getting 25 percent. 
“We had an agreement. We worked toward getting his van,” Heskett said. “It was the only way that Van and I knew to increase his money.” 
When asked how much of the checks were spent, Heskett said, “All of it.” 
In Heskett’s recorded police confession shown to jurors last week, Heskett denied taking any money from Moulton. He also suggested the last time he saw the $13,000 in cash, it was in a dresser drawer of Moulton’s apartment — which he admitted Tuesday was not the truth. 
Heskett told jurors Tuesday that he was fearful to tell investigators about the car agreement because they were asking him whether Moulton had given him the money in exchange for killing him. 
“All (police) were talking about was, ‘Did Van give you money?’” Heskett testified. “I thought they were going to charge me with murder for hire and give me the death penalty.” 
Heskett said he and Moulton didn’t tell anyone else about the agreement. 
If the content in this article is causing you to have suicidal thoughts contact Your Life Counts.

The final part of the trial focused on how the judge would charge the jury. The defense argued that the jury should be given the option of convicting Heskett of murder or the lesser charge of assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is when someone assists the suicide death that is carried our by the person who died. It can be done in many ways. Euthanasia is a form of homicide (murder) that is done when one person directly and intentionally causes the death of another person. 
According to the Lawrence Journal World, the defense argued that the Judge should:
let jurors decide between not only the first- or second-degree murder charges facing his client, but also have the option to convict Heskett of lesser charges of assisted suicide or voluntary manslaughter. 
Because Heskett confessed to helping Moulton die, “we don’t expect Mr. Heskett to walk out the door here, unless he’s acquitted based on the charges, which would be ironic.”
The prosecution stated that:
assisted suicide and voluntary manslaughter are not lesser included charges of first-degree murder and hence are not appropriate based on Kansas statute and case law. Kittel (the Judge) agreed with them, denying Warner’s request to include the lesser charges on the jury’s instructions.
I am interested in this story because Heskett says that the death was an assisted suicide. I am not stating that this didn't occur, but it is possible to cause death and claim assisted suicide as a defense. The trial will continue tomorrow with closing arguments.

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