Manhattan prosecutors said Wednesday that they still don't buy the story that Woodmere motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker wanted to die when he was killed in Harlem last year, and they argued that even if he did, it's still murder.
After Locker, 52, was found bound and stabbed to death in his car last July, ex-con defendant Kenneth Minor, 29, told police that Locker paid him $1,000 to assist a suicide. Last month, prosecutors conceded that some new evidence supported the tale - Locker was deep in debt, had just bought millions in life insurance and had researched funeral arrangements.
Wednesday, however, they said medical evidence was "completely inconsistent" with Minor's claim that he held a knife while Locker thrust himself onto it, and argued that lesser charges of manslaughter and assisted suicide apply only to "passive" assistance, not "active participation" in a suicide.
"Defendant's statement that he was holding the knife while Locker thrust himself on it seven times does not alter his criminal liability," wrote Assistant District Attorney Peter Casolaro. "While it is obvious that the grand jurors did not believe he was 'merely' holding the knife, even if it were so, he is still a direct participant in the death."
Defense lawyers argue that prosecutors should be ordered to present the new evidence to a grand jury and let it consider lesser charges. Murder carries a sentence of 25 years to life, while second-degree manslaughter and assisting suicide each carry sentences of up to 15 years.
Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman set a hearing for March 17, when she is expected to decide the issue.
Daniel Goslin, Minor's attorney, said he thought the district attorney was wrong on both the facts and the law, arguing that Locker was trying to scam insurance companies out of $18 million that they wouldn't pay out in the case of a suicide, and that Minor's role was not murder under New York law.
Prosecutors, he predicted, will ultimately plea bargain for something less than murder.
"Ultimately, they'll negotiate," Goslin said. "The Manhattan DA isn't suicidal. They don't want to go to trial with cases like this."