Georgia’s highest court is set to review an appeal by four members of a suicide group charged with helping a cancer-stricken man kill himself. The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear the arguments Monday, reports A.P.
The four were indicted by a Forsyth County grand jury in March 2010. They pleaded not guilty to charges that they tampered with evidence, violated anti-racketeering laws and helped the man kill himself.
They argue that Georgia’s statute on assisted suicide is unconstitutional because they say it violates their rights to free speech, equal protection and due process. The trial court rejected those arguments, ruling the statute constitutional.
The high court has agreed to hear their appeal prior to trial to determine whether the trial court erred in ruling the law constitutional.
In April, Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David Dickinson rejected a defense attorney’s free-speech challenge in the case of four members of the “Final Exit Network.”
The four members of the network were arrested in February 2009 after 58-year-old John Celmer’s death at his Cumming home, following an eight-month investigation by state authorities that included an undercover agent posing as someone seeking to commit suicide.
A grand jury in March 2010 indicted Dr. Lawrence Egbert, medical director and co-founder of the group; Ted Goodwin, the group’s former president; group member Claire Blehr; and regional coordinator Nicholas Alec Sheridan.
Georgia law makes it a felony for anyone who “publicly advertises, offers or holds himself or herself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose.” It sets a maximum penalty of five years in prison.