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Martens Assisted-Suicide Case Readies For Jury
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 2, 2004

DUNCAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Jurors heard closing arguments beginning Monday in the three-week long trial of Evelyn Martens, the 74-year-old woman charged with two counts of helping two women die.

Martens is a founding member and former membership director of the Right to Die Society, an organization that challenges Canadian laws which make assisted suicide illegal. She has pleaded not guilty to allegations that she assisted in the death of former Duncan nun Monique Charest, 64, who died on January 7, 2002. Charest had back pain, a stomach disorder, heart problems and anxiety, but did not have a terminal illness.

Martens has also pleaded not guilty to assisting in the June 26, 2002 suicide of former Vancouver school teacher Leyanne Burchell, 52, who was reportedly in the final stages of terminal stomach cancer.

Crown [government] prosecutor Susan Rupertus told the jury that Charest and Burchell contacted Martens to help them kill themselves because they knew she had the skills and knowledge to do so.

"Mrs. Martens was there to ensure success," explained Rupertus. "She was there to assist. She was there to aid in that suicide."

"The nature of their relationship was solely in the nature of euthanasia and suicide," Rupertus said.

"Her motive was these two people should have their right to an assisted suicide."

Catherine Tyhurst, Martens' defense lawyer, said her client did not do anything criminal.

"There was no criminal intent here," Tyhurst said in her closing arguments.

Last week, jurors heard secretly-recorded audio of Martens admitting to an undercover police officer that she was present when Charest died. She acknowledged that just being there was illegal and that she had helped several other people to die.

Police arrested Martens on the same day as her meeting with the officer, after they discovered Burchell's body in her Vancouver home. In Martens' van they found helium tanks and "exit bags" -- plastic bags fitted with sealable collars and hoses designed to place over one's head and to pump helium in to replace oxygen.

Dr. Michael Lepawsky, an expert in how gases affect the human body, testified that a person would likely die from lack of oxygen if one of the devices was used. He said that helium is not harmful in itself, and is difficult to detect.

Burchell's death was attributed to a drug overdose. Some of the drugs found in Burchell's body, including the "date-rape" drug Rohypnol, were also found in Martens' van.

If convicted, Martens could be sentenced to 14 years in prison for each charge.

Arguments are expected to continue Wednesday.

Related:
"Martens Told Undercover Cop She Was Present At Nun's Suicide" (Inclusion Daily Express -- October 22, 2004)

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