An unemployed drug addict who claimed he was paid to assist a motivational speaker commit suicide was convicted today of murder.
A New York City jury found Kenneth Minor guilty of first degree murder in the death of Jeffrey Locker, a Long Island self-help guru whose business was floundering.
The prosecution conceded that Locker was suicidal and sought out Minor on a Harlem street corner in July 2009.
Minor and the prosecution agreed that Locker asked Minor to make his death look like a robbery so Locker's family would be able to claim a multi-million dollar insurance settlement.
Minor's lawyer told the jury his client simply held a knife against the steering wheel of Locker's station wagon as Locker thrust his chest against the blade to kill himself.
"He was taken advantage of. . He's no contract killer," said Minor's lawyer Daniel Gotlin in closing arguments. Gotlin said Minor should be acquitted under a state statue that allows an assisted suicide defense in some murder charges.
But the prosecution said Minor killed Locker for money, binding his hands and stabbing the man repeatedly in the chest.
"This was murder for money, not a mercy killing, which is why we prosecuted the case as an intentional murder," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement. "We believe the jurors got it right with their verdict."
Gotlin said he would appeal the jury's verdict.
Police found the body of Locker, 52, a father of three, slumped over the steering wheel of his black station wagon on the morning of July 16, 2009. Locker's hands were tied behind his back, his chest was punctured by multiple stab wounds, and his wallet was missing.
Kenneth Minor, 38, an unemployed computer technician and a drug addict with a long criminal history, was caught later that day. He was seen on video withdrawing $1,000 from several ATMs using Locker's bank card.
When cops caught up with Minor, he told them an incredible story: Locker approached him on a street corner and asked his help to commit suicide. He promised to give him his ATM card and PIN number as payment for his assistance.
Minor told police Locker drove through the streets of uptown Manhattan looking for someone to "do a Kevorkian," according to court documents and published accounts of a written statement he gave police.
"Locker said it had to look like a robbery so his family can get what they deserve," Minor wrote.
In the year and half since Minor's arrest, new evidence has emerged suggesting that Locker was indeed looking to kill himself.
Locker had made a fortune from his speeches teaching people how to deal with stress, but evidence from the months before his death suggest he was deeply in debt and took out a $4 million life insurance policy on himself for his family. Minor's lawyer says it is evidence he was planning to kill himself.
A court had ordered Locker to pay back $121,000 he made investing in a Ponzi scheme organized by convicted conman Lou Perlman, the music impresario behind boy bands the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync.