June 17, 2006

"I wouldn't think that just leaving the car would amount to aiding another person's suicide attempt."

Is it a crime to get out of the car just before the driver plunges off a cliff?


Larry said...


CB said...

I don't have much of a problem with the legal theory as such--especially the child endangerment part. We can easily imagine some facts in a case like this: the woman has made credible threats to harm herself and her children; the man wants to be rid of her and wouldn't mind being rid of the children too. He has her drive to a place where the opportunity exists, hoping she'll seize it; maybe even starts an argument, etc. etc. Now, whether that actually happened in this case--and whether it can be proven--is an entirely separate question.

[should that be "are entirely separate questions??]

BTW, I've been having to log in again every time I comment; is that just me or is Blogger acting up?

Bill Sommerfeld said...

Somehow I suspect the situation isn't quite that simple.

Ricardo said...

Well, we need to know more information. Leaving the car shouldn't amount to aiding another person's suicide attempt, but "screwing with their mind" might. For some reason (even though the facts are very different) it smells a little like the Andrea Yates case in Houston. But again, the facts are different, and Rusty Yates escaped any liability in large part due to the gravity of Andrea's mental condition, and her actions.

Ann Althouse said...

Who knows what actually happened in the case, other than the man who has been charged? The children, who survived, are 5 and 3. What if the woman was driving, saying she was going to drive the car off the cliff and gave him one chance to get out? What if she was threatening to go off the cliff, he said "go ahead, but don't kill the rest of us" and she stopped and said, "so get out," and he did?

It must happen a lot that someone threatens suicide and the other person says "go ahead." It's not nice, but it must happen pretty easily in an argument. That shouldn't be a crime.

CB: You have to log in again if you've closed down the browser since the last time you logged in. Otherwise, I'm not seeing a problem.

tjl said...

Ricardo said:
"it smells a little like the Andrea Yates case in Houston. But again, the facts are different, and Rusty Yates escaped any liability in large part due to the gravity of Andrea's mental condition."

The facts are very different. There is no hint that Rusty Yates wanted Andrea to kill the kids. On the contrary, everything we know about the case suggests that he wanted her to go on as she was, i.e., "barefoot and pregnant."

However , he does bear a great deal of responsibility for Andrea's actions. With her history of mental problems it should have been painfully clear to anyone who saw her, much less her husband, that she shouldn't be having any more children. But these is no legal theory that would establish criminal responsibility.

Moanique said...

Quoting from the story:

The police maintain that Mr. Han knew that his wife was suicidal and "afforded her an opportunity" to kill herself.

That seems overly broad to me.

Could he be charged for leaving her alone in the kitchen with a lot of sharp, scary knives while he goes to the bathroom? Is he ever supposed to sleep?

It's just possible that he got out of the van to take pictures.

On the other hand, if he knew that something like this was likely and was willing to let the children go over the side as well, that's very troubling.

Unless he flat out admits to it, I don't see how you prove that. Apparently, in the eyes of the police, he's apparently guilty until he proves himself otherwise.

PatCA said...

Yeah, I think there's probably more to the story.

Asian women have a very high suicide rate here, especially in marital disputes or disappointments, and consider it unthinkable to leave children alone with the shame later, so...it could suggest he knew what might happen and nudged it along. Whether a crime occurred, I don't know.

Every year in CA we have one or two spectacular suicide/murders such as these.

Meade said...

"At the edge, in place of a guardrail, are boulders set about 10 feet apart — just far enough, it turned out, for the Hans' Honda Odyssey to drive through."

He's an architect. Perhaps he eyeballed the distance between the boulders and said, "okay, go ahead." It wouldn't be the first time an architect made the mistake of not measuring twice. Then again, he may have stepped out of the van for that very purpose and Mrs. Han simply couldn't wait for him to get out his tape measurer.

The Drill SGT said...

I'd have less problem with child endangerment than aiding a suicide for a case like this where the husband is at worst guilty of not doing something rather than active complicity.

Ricardo said...

I'm always interested in incidents (and cases) where "but for" the actions of ALL concerned, the incident might not have happened. Where the mental state and actions of each of the participants might have only been a little off base, but when you put the whole package together you get what may be a crime. This "feels" like it might be one of those situations. But as Ann said above, and given the ages of the kids as witnesses, we're pretty much left with "his" version of the events, and a lot will be based on conjecture.

Was she really suicidal, or was he making her so? What was the substance of their last conversation? Is there truth to this other romance, and (as patca points out) did this motivate her to do it and take the kids with her? Did he know that she had this code of honor, and that this would be the probable outcome of his revealing his infidelity? What were his intentions? And is there anything here that is really criminally prosecutable?

Sounds like the makings of a "48 Hours Mystery".

Joe said...

I live about 15 minutes away from Bear Mt. so this is a local story. Other news sources have more facts. The family was on an outing to celebrate one child's kindergarten "graduation." Hubby wanted to go to Battery Park, wifey insisted on Bear Mt., adding that she wanted to kill herself and that if they went to the mountain she would do it. He told police he did not think she would because there were hikers nearby and that he did not think she would not do it with others there. No mention of whether he thought she would not because the children were still in the car. He parked nose to the cliff and got out to take pictures - she locked the doors and put the van into drive. It almost seems as if he was daring her to do it.

Joe said...

Also, his girlfriend told police they had a romantic relationship, but that he would not leave his wife because he came from a family where his parents had divorced.

reader_iam said...

Hubby wanted to go to Battery Park, wifey insisted on Bear Mt., adding that she wanted to kill herself and that if they went to the mountain she would do it.

And he got out of the car leaving his kids inside of it???

Well, I suppose one could argue that this gives credence to the idea that he really didn't think she would do it. Helluva foolish risk, though.

Or this could speak to his callousness. Or to something far more malign.

I'd be interested in hearing more about that "other" relationship, but more important, I'd like to hear more about how he felt about being a "family man": how he felt about the kids and whether he thought they cramped his style.

Boy, this strikes me as hinky.

And under the "go ahead" scenario described by one commenter: Yeah, I can see that happening, but leaving the kids in the car? Incredibly reckless, at best. And what the heck kind of person would participate in that sort of conversation or say that sort of thing in front of their kids?


Joe said...

More about his extramarital activity here:

Elizabeth said...

This is starting to sound like a twist on the Susan Smith technique. He doesn't believe in divorce, but now he's unencumbered by a wife and children. He parked the car, "nose to the cliff", after his wife stated she wanted to kill herself on the mountain? He's not coming across like a hapless victim.

Elizabeth said...

Sorry; I just re-read the story and realize the children are okay. That's a relief.

FXKLM said...

Upcoming 1Ls might want to pay especially close attention to this case. I expect it will find its way into quite a few crim law finals next semester.

DaveG said...

Well, at least he'll have a jury of 200,000,000, although presumed innocence seems to already be out of the question.