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Judge overturns denial of request for jailhouse interview

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    NMU         MICHIGAN         Newsgathering         Jul 20, 2000    

Judge overturns denial of request for jailhouse interview

  • A circuit judge ordered the Department of Corrections to allow ABC to bring cameras into the jail to interview “suicide doctor” Jack Kevorkian, but upheld the denial of interviews with two other inmates.

The state court ruled that Department of Corrections Director Bill Martin has 14 days to schedule an interview between ABC’s Barbara Walters and assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian or face contempt of court charges and jail time.

Circuit Judge Robert Ransom ruled on July 13 that Martin abused his discretion in continually not allowing on-camera interviews with inmates. Martin has denied “20/20’s” requests to tape interviews with Kevorkian since April 1999.

However, Ransom upheld the department’s decision to refuse interviews with two other inmates who are serving life sentences, stating that these interviews might harm victims or their families or enrage inmates.

The judge stated that it would be nearly impossible to boost Kevorkian’s notoriety any more than it already is.

Detroit attorney Cameron Evans, who is representing ABC, told the Flint Journal that “there is no valid reason to deny these interviews.”

ABC’s suit against Martin and Deputy Director Dan Bolden claims that they arbitrarily and unconstitutionally applied a new policy barring cameras and recording devices from the prisons. The policy, which took effect in March, allows television cameramen to film stock footage in the facilities, such as inmates mingling in the prison yard.

Kevorkian is currently at the Charles S. Egeler Correctional Facility in Jackson serving a 10- to 20-year sentence for the second-degree murder of a terminally ill man.

The Department of Corrections has not yet given a date for the interview, according to Herschel Fink, an attorney for ABC.

Fink does not know if state officials will ask the trial judge for a stay of the order. But the judge has indicated it is unlikely that he would grant a stay in this case, Fink said.

(ABC Inc. v. Michigan Department of Corrections; Media Counsel: Herschel Fink, Detroit) SK

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