HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mercy Killing: No Further Jail Time

The LA Times provides an update on an attempted mercy killing and the final determination of whether to prosecute the individual who made the attempt.  Catherine Sailant reports,

James Wheeler, the 85-year-old Carpinteria man who attempted to kill his dementia-stricken wife and himself in September, won't be going back to jail after all.In a recent sentencing hearing, Ventura County Superior Court Judge George Eskin ruled that the seven days Wheeler spent in a Santa Barbara jail after his Sept. 17 arrest was enough. He'll also serve three years of probation and 100 hours of community service, Eskin decided at the sentencing Thursday. . . .

Wheeler's story galvanized people in Carpinteria and beyond. Many were incensed that the retired engineer could spend the rest of his life behind bars for what they saw as not a crime but an act of love. Wheeler told investigators that he had lost hope because his wife, in her fifth year of battling Alzheimer's, no longer recognized him. His plan to die with her by pumping car exhaust into their weathered beach cottage was interrupted by a neighbor who saw the exhaust hose and called police. . . .

"He realizes now there were probably other ways to deal with the situation,'' she said.

Sadly, his beloved wife, Betty, died Nov. 12. Wheeler eulogized his wife of 64 years in a memorial service in Carpinteria and wrote her obituary for the local paper,  which took up nearly a quarter of a page.

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