On April 13, Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper sentenced Jack Kevorkian to 10-25 years in prison for second-degree murder, scolding him for defying the laws of Michigan in his campaign for doctor-assisted suicide.

The sentence is the latest chapter in a story that gained international attention after Kevorkian released a video tape to 60 Minutes showing him administering a lethal injection into 52-year-old Thomas Youk. He was convicted on March 28.

Cooper said the trial was not about doctor-assisted suicide but about Kevorkian’s defiance of the law. She also criticized Kevorkian for defying the medical profession.

“You stood before this jury and spoke of your duty as a physician. You repeatedly speak of treating patients to relieve their pain and their suffering, but you don’t have a licence to practice medicine. The State of Michigan told you eight years ago that you may not practice medicine … let alone administer or inject drugs into another human being.”

She condemned Kevorkian’s recent criticisms of the jury and his attempt to vilify them and the entire justice system. She said “every member of that jury had compassion and empathy for Thomas Youk. They had a higher duty, a duty that went beyond personal sympathy and emotion. They took an oath to follow the law, not to nullify it, and I am bound by a very similar oath, sir.”

Cooper ignored pleas to impose only a token sentence because Kevorkian “was not a murderer in spirit.” His lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, asked Cooper to sentence him to “a year and a day and parole.” Cooper could have also given him life in prison.

She said the 10-25 year sentence is not meant to rehabilitate someone of Kevorkian’s obstinacy, but that it should serve to deter other activists like him. She said the sentence was also punishment for Kevorkian’s crime.

Cooper told Kevorkian that he was “on bond to another judge when you committed this offence; you were not licensed to practice medicine when you committed the offence. And you had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did, and dare the legal system to stop you. Well sir, consider yourself stopped.”

Pro-life groups and advocates for the disabled applauded the sentence. Teresa Wagner, the Family Research Council’s legal analyst, said, “Finally, the relentless Kevorkian killing campaign will cease,” because “America now knows that its homicide laws protect the weak, the sick and the disabled, as well as those who are strong and healthy.”

Wagner said the conviction and sentence reflected favourably the decision of Michigan voters to overwhelmingly defeat a measure to legalize doctor-assisted suicide last year. They “reassured the nation” of Michigan’s “sound judgment in rejecting killing as a response to disease or disability.”

“Putting Kevorkian in handcuffs and taking him to jail will, thank God, change things,” said Diane Coleman, founder of the disability-rights group Not Dead Yet. “This day will go down in disability history, will turn the tide against the killing of our minority group.” Kevorkian had publicly declared that once he was jailed, he would go on a hunger strike, starving himself to the death, if necessary, to protest his “enslavement.” But within days of entering jail,

Kevorkian told his lawyer that he had abandoned his protest plans.