Assisted Suicide in Utah

A Logan, Utah man was arrested for reckless endangerment and some weapon charges after he assisted with the suicide of his friend. A 20 year old man dealing with depression accompanied some friends to the home of 48 year old David Schofield and stated that he wanted to end his own life. Schofield handed the young man a gun and told him to pull the trigger. In his despair the 20 year old followed Schofield’s instructions, placed the barrel to his head, and ended his life.

Photo by: Cache County Sheriff Bookings

Photo by: Cache County Sheriff Bookings

Most likely not besties

Had Schofield been the one to pull the trigger his charges would have included homicide. Nevertheless, Schofield was not a murderer by law but just a really bad friend. Had he been a better person entirely, he may have found his depressed comrade some help or counseling. In the end though, he did not force the young man to kill himself, just supplied the weapon. Consequently he is only facing reckless endangerment charges regarding his role in the young man’s death. While assisting suicide for those facing mental illness such as depression should never be an option, what about friends or family members facing terminal illness and pain?

Watching a family member suffer

Last year an elderly man in Roy, Utah took the life of his 70 year old wife whose health had been declining following a stroke. 75 year old Dennis Vance Chamberlain was charged with first degree felony murder for killing his wife in her sleep after authorities found assisted suicide reading material in Chamberlain’s possession. Although it can be difficult to watch a loved one painfully waste away due to cancer or another terminal illness, ending their life for them is against the law and is punishable by a lengthy stay in prison. Besides ending life support for comatose victims, there are currently no laws in place allowing family members to end the suffering of their ailing loved ones. On the other hand, laws allowing doctors to perform assisted suicide are in the works.

Photo by: Derrick Tyson

Photo by: Derrick Tyson

Physician assisted suicide laws

Assisted suicide by a physician is still a touchy subject of debate nationwide. Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana are the only states where assisted suicide by a physician is currently legal. Earlier this year in Utah, HB391 also known as the Death with Dignity Act was brought before lawmakers. This Utah law allowing assisted suicide by physicians is not legal yet and it being widely fought but is still under consideration.

Patient makes ultimate decision

Unlike euthanasia where the doctor is the one administering the lethal medications, assisted suicide by a physician is actually carried out by the patient themselves. The terminally ill patient first puts in a written request for assisted suicide, and then after the doctor has interviewed the patient thoroughly, he prescribes a few different types of medication to be taken together. This deadly cocktail is then available to the patient to take if and when they decide. There is a large opposition regarding this practice and the likelihood that it could glorify suicide in a state with an already high suicide rate. This concern, along with many others is being taken into consideration before HB391 is made lawful.

Dr. Kevorkian’s of Utah

Until Utah’s Death with Dignity Law is passed (if it ever is) it is unlawful for medical personnel to go above the law and prescribe death to their patients in the state of Utah. For Doctors to give their patients the means to end their life early is not a legal resolution yet. For those family members, friends, or physicians who may be facing charges by ending the suffering of the sick or afflicted, call a criminal defense attorney for legal counsel.

Sentencing Postponed for Convicted Utah Murderer Johnny Wall

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Sentencing Postponed

Sentencing has been postponed for former Utah pediatrician Johnny Wall who was convicted in March for the murder of his ex-wife. On September 27th 2011, cancer researcher Uta von Schwedler was found drowned in her bathtub with high levels of Xanax in her system and lacerations to her body. What was originally thought to be a suicide was later determined to be murder.

Son testifies against father

Although it was previously assumed that Schwedler had committed suicide, the son of Wall and Schwedler was suspicious of his father’s involvement in his mother’s death. He testified of Wall’s growing animosity toward Schwedler and was convinced she had no signs of depression that would lead to suicide. The son who was just 17 years old at the time of his mother’s death, pleaded with authorities to further investigate his father. In April 2013 Johnny Wall was arrested and charged with the murder of Uta von Schwedler.

Convicted by a Jury

2 years after his arrest, Johnny Wall’s case went to trial. After over 6 hours of deliberation, Wall was convicted with first-degree murder by a twelve person jury in March 2015. Following the hearing, jurors stated a few reasons behind their vote: the suicide scene that appeared staged, Wall’s questionable interviews with police, and testimonies from the son about Wall’s post-divorce bitterness toward Schwedler.

Not always as cut-and-dried as it seems

Wall’s attorney requested the delay of sentencing amid protests from Schwedler’s family. Although he declined to give any information as to the approach to be made in the appeal, previous arguments from the defense debated the farfetched story of a staged suicide and lack of evidence at the scene. The new sentencing date is set for July 2015.
A person facing first-degree murder is looking at a high probability of life in prison. Before carrying out such a sentence, there shouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt of the convicted person’s guilt. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know this and work hard to ensure a fair trial.