A Philadelphia nurse accused of helping her 93-year-old terminally ill father kill himself by handing him a bottle of morphine said Wednesday she was unjustly prosecuted, and her supporters begged Pennsylvania's attorney general to refrain from appealing a judge's decision dismissing the case.
Speaking publicly for the first time since being charged with felony assisted suicide, Barbara Mancini said her ordeal was an "unbearable torment.
"I'm relieved and I'm happy and that's something I haven't felt for over a year," said Mancini, who denounced the case as an "unjust prosecution."
Mancini, 57, was charged last summer with giving a nearly full bottle of morphine to her father, Joseph Yourshaw, at his Pottsville home in February 2013 for the purpose of helping him end his life. Yourshaw died at a hospital four days later after a hospice nurse called 911 in what Mancini said was a violation of her father's "end-of-life wishes."
In a 47-page opinion issued Tuesday - the one-year anniversary of Yourshaw's death - Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline L. Russell said state prosecutors had failed to prove a crime occurred and based its case against Mancini on speculation and guesswork.
The judge said that prosecutors had neither established that Yourshaw intended to take his own life, nor that Mancini helped him do it.
Mancini declined to comment Wednesday when asked if she wanted to address first-term Attorney General Kathleen Kane directly.
But her supporters from Compassion & Choices, a group that supports aid in dying and other end-of-life decisions and raised $20,000 to help defray Mancini's $100,000 legal bill, were more than willing to take on the first-term Democrat.
Mancini's prosecution "did more than torment and torture one family," said Compassion & Choices spokeswoman Gwen Fitzgerald, who joined Mancini at a news conference inside her Philadelphia home. "The arrest of a family caregiver providing pain medication to a dying loved one has a chilling effect for families across the country."
Kane "should back off and back out of families' medical decisions. You are not needed there," Fitzgerald said. She said an appeal of the judge's ruling would be "a further abuse of power."
Kane's office said it was still analyzing the ruling and declined further comment after the news conference. Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal.
Mancini was let go from her job as an emergency-room nurse at Lankenau Medical Center, where she'd worked for more than 20 years, after her six-month unpaid leave expired last month. She said she plans to reapply for her old job "at some point."
"I can't do it right now," she said. "We need to decompress a little bit."