Kenneth Minor, the man convicted of killing North Woodmere resident and motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker in a suicide-for-hire stabbing in East Harlem in July of 2009, will get a new trial as a state appeals court ruled on Oct. 3 that the judge incorrectly instructed jurors that any “active” participation in the death made it murder.
Minor, who has been in jail for two years of his 20-years to life sentence, said he only held the knife for Locker to plunge his body on. The court based its decision on state law which deems assisting suicide as manslaughter, not murder. Minor was convicted in 2011 of one count of second-degree murder.
The judge’s instruction “was confusing and conveyed the wrong standard,” the appeals court said. “Neither the word ‘active’ not its antonym ‘passive’ appears in the statutory language,” the appellate judges wrote in their decision. Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman’s instruction effectively “mandated a directed verdict of guilt” on the murder charge.
“The jury could have been confused,” the appeals court said, “into thinking that the defendant’s taking the knife out of the glove compartment, or holding the knife would constitute murder and not assisted suicide.”
Berkman now retired said that reviewing cases is what the appeals court is for. " I didn't have any precedent, I did my best," she said, adding that there are five appeals court judges and only one of her, giving them an advantage on how many legal minds they can confer with.
Locker, who was said to deeply in debt, had agreed to give Minor his ATM card in exchange for killing him. Locker was found dead on in an East Harlem housing project, tied up and with multiple stab wounds to his abdomen.
Minor told police that Locker said he wanted to escape from his money troubles. During the trial evidence was presented that showed Locker was in substantial debt and recently purchased $12 million in life insurance. He had $18 million total life insurance. The most recent policies wouldn’t pay out for suicide. That is why Locker wanted his death to look like a murder. Locker was married with three children.