Suppose for a moment that you suggested to a friend who was getting on your nerves to “tie this anchor to your foot and go jump in the lake." Suppose further that he did exactly as you suggested; he went away and later tied the anchor you gave him to his foot and jumped into a lake. Suppose that he sunk to the bottom and drowned to his death.
Would you be guilty of manslaughter? After all, you told him to do it, didn’t you? You supplied the anchor to him, and he did it, didn’t he? So you are responsible for his death, are you?
The thought is preposterous, right?
Wrong, say the government authorities in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.
That’s what is happening to 17-year-old Michelle Carter. She’s charged with the crime of manslaughter for allegedly encouraging her friend to commit suicide. You see, the state wants to have it both ways. They’re calling suicide manslaughter.
That’s a new one on me. Is it manslaughter or suicide?
Police say that the teenager exchanged “hundreds” of texts with Conrad Roy, her 18-year-old mentally depressed friend, encouraging him to go ahead and kill himself even after he had expressed second thoughts about doing it. The boy was later found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in a shop car park.
“Instead of attempting to assist him or notify his family or school officials, Ms Carter is alleged to have strongly influenced his decision to take his own life, encouraged him to [kill himself] and guided him in his engagement of activities which led to his death,” says the Bristol County district attorney’s office.
Let’s say for the purpose of this discussion that it’s all true. Even so, I don’t think that the state has the legal power to turn a suicide into a homicide simply because the accused told the victim to do kill himself.
It’s either a suicide or a homicide. It can’t be both. This stupid girl did not cause her friend’s death. He killed himself. That’s suicide. It’s suicide whether she encouraged him to do it or not.
My prediction: Case dismissed. There is no such crime as manslaughter by suicide.