July 9, 2019

Michelle Carter — convicted of manslaughter for texting encouragement to a young man who was killing himself — petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case, based on her right to freedom of speech.

WaPo reports. Also happening at the same time: a new HBO documentary, "I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter." And click my "Michelle Carter" tag. I opposed prosecuting Carter from the beginning.

From the WaPo article:
The two teenagers barely interacted in person. They led separate lives, both beset by difficulty, in separate Massachusetts towns. But they developed an intense online bond after meeting in Naples, Fla., in 2012, when each was visiting relatives. They traded stories of their anguish, and Carter recommended that Roy seek treatment for his depression. Soon, however, she began suggesting ways for her interlocutor to die by suicide, which he had previously attempted...

The day before he was found lifeless in his truck, she had pressed him to follow through on his plans. “If you want it as bad as you say you do, its time to do it today,” she said in a text message the day before his death. “I love you,” she told him repeatedly, and he returned the words. As his truck filled with fumes and he stepped outside, apparently having second thoughts, she instructed him to return to the vehicle, according to the juvenile court judge who convicted her of involuntary manslaughter in a nonjury trial in 2017. The judge, Lawrence Moniz of Bristol County, reasoned that her “virtual presence” made her responsible for her boyfriend’s death. He later handed her a 15-month jail term.

Her conviction was upheld in February by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which said it “rejected the defendant’s claim that her words to the victim, without any physical act on her part and even without her physical presence at the scene, could not constitute wanton or reckless conduct sufficient to support a charge of manslaughter.”
Here's something I wrote back in June 2017:
In recent decades, there has been some evolution toward making it legal to assist in a suicide, but in the U.S., this is only for medical professionals helping somebody who's dying. But I've seen cases outside of the United States where physicians have performed euthanasia on individuals who are severely depressed and want to die. That is, they are suicidal. In Belgium, this might be considered enlightened and respectful of individual autonomy. I don't like that, but what if a person is close to a someone who is suicidal and comes to believe that they genuinely want to die and is convinced it's their choice and offers moral support and encouragement? You don't need to agree with the autonomy idea to want to refrain from criminally punishing somebody like Michelle Carter who speaks in accordance with that idea.

There's too much danger of selective prosecution, going after the people who seem awful, and too much power put in the hands of suicidal people to wreak harm on others, finally going through with a suicide after someone who's making them angry lets slip with some text daring them to stop talking about it and do it already.

115 comments:

Narayanan said...

O parser of sentences and rooting inspection of words : is it self kill when assisted?

iowan2 said...

Have only followed this from the headlines. Don't know how the trial went. My first pass thought, centers on the right to trial by jury. That should include instructions to the jury that they are the finders of fact, and the final judge of the law being prosecuted in the case before them.
Jury Nullification.
If I had been on the jury I would have refused to convict and worked hard on the other jury members to come back with a unanimous decision of not guilty.

PJ said...

Doesn’t it matter a lot what Michelle’s mental state was at the time of her conduct, and aren’t you assuming the most benign possible mental state? Do you think it’s impossible to commit manslaughter by verbally encouraging/inducing suicide, regardless of the encourager’s mental state? I do see your point about the danger of selective prosecution in cases that boil down to mental state, but there are a lot of those cases.

alanc709 said...

Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that the result of that speech is beyond the law. Speech advocating action should still be liable to legal action.

David Begley said...

Words have meaning and consequences. But for this woman encouraging this guy via text message, he’d probably be alive today.

The entire advertising industry is premised on the power of words.

EDH said...

Without having read more, wouldn’t SCOTUS have to overturn all manner of conspiracy convictions in order to adopt Carter’s First Amendment argument?

Gahrie said...

No woman must be made to feel bad about, or responsible for, anything, ever.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Left Bank of the Charles said...

Fake news headline that the conviction was for texting encouragement. Michelle did do that but the prosecutors also had an admission from a later text from Michelle that she had talked to Roy on the phone after he had gotten out of the car and told him to get back in. Her defense was that she made that up.

Gahrie said...

A man and a woman are robbing a bank. The bank guard resists, so the man threatens him with a gun. The woman goads him into shooting and killing the guard. Is she responsible for the death? Can she be tried for murder?

How is this case any different? Suicide is a crime, just like bank robbery.

tim maguire said...

My inclination is to say she wasn't there. He could have hung up the phone any time he wanted. She was in no position to manipulate him into doing anything he wasn't inclined to do. Therefore, she cannot be the causative agent.

BUT...what about a case where a person skilled in manipulation deliberately pushes the right buttons on a vulnerable person to convince them to do something (kill themselves) that they would not have done absent the manipulation? Does that person really bear no culpability? Why can't it be murder just because the murder weapon is the victim himself?

traditionalguy said...

Death Cults are getting legalized as fast as the Gurus running them can recruit their victims. This case at least makes a last stand against Gurus of evil counseling a disciple that death is a noble choice. If the Jonestown mass suicide was illegal, then so is this speech.

Ralph L said...

Have there been convictions of on- or off-line hateful bullying leading to suicide?

tim maguire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Rolph said...

I agree that this is speech and should not be prosecuted (although I think it's morally wrong):

"'If you want it as bad as you say you do, its time to do it today,' she said in a text message the day before his death."

This, in my view, is not the same thing:

"As his truck filled with fumes and he stepped outside, apparently having second thoughts, she instructed him to return to the vehicle"

Ralph L said...

Her defense was that she made that up.

There should be a record that the call occurred. NSA could look up what was said.

tim maguire said...

Gahrie said...
A man and a woman are robbing a bank. The bank guard resists, so the man threatens him with a gun. The woman goads him into shooting and killing the guard. Is she responsible for the death? Can she be tried for murder?

How is this case any different? Suicide is a crime, just like bank robbery.


That's felony murder. Totally different. Another analogy--a group of people come across a person pointing a gun at someone on the street. They respond by chanting "shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" And he shoots, killing the victim.

Did they commit a crime? I'm pretty sure there is case law on this but I don't remember the result.

Seeing Red said...

She might get off on the power over life and death. She might in the future seek out vulnerable people if she’s not stopped.

Fernandistein said...

That should include instructions to the jury that they are the finders of fact, and the final judge of the law being prosecuted in the case before them.

Judges almost always lie to the jurors about that, e.g. in the jury instructions for for California:

"You must follow the law as I explain it to you, even if you disagree with it." (pg 27)

"A Michigan jury has found a former pastor guilty of illegally attempting to influence jurors by distributing pamphlets about jury nullification near a courthouse."

Fernandistein said...

Suicide is a crime,

Only in muslim countries. The woman under discussion didn't assist the guy in doing anything illegal.

AustinRoth said...

Ignoring the other aspects and arguments for and against her conviction, as a devoted SCOTUS follower IMHO this does not seem a likely case to be granted cert. Therefore her conviction will most likely stand.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

A real friend would have talked him out of it. but what do I know?
She's not a friend, but a fiend at the very least.

iowan2 said...

A man and a woman are robbing a bank. The bank guard resists, so the man threatens him with a gun. The woman goads him into shooting and killing the guard. Is she responsible for the death? Can she be tried for murder?

How is this case any different? Suicide is a crime, just like bank robbery.


I see where you are trying to go. I think the law says in lots of places, all that are participating in a crime where a gun is used, all are guilty by association. But, the analogy works better in reverse. IF four robbers go into the bank, and before hand the boss tells them, NO GUN SHOTS!!!.If one of them in fact shoots a person, has the boss earned immunity through his verbal direction? Words have the power to motivated right? That's what we are talking about. Being held to your words, not actions.

Another old lawyer said...

If her argument is successful, will it doom all sexual, racial, etc. harrassment laws that impose liability based solely on speech? So if an employee wants to remark crudely on the dress or body of a customer or fellow employee, no liability to business or employee? The courts have not really grappled with the intersection of 1A and harrassment and similar laws.

Of course, the employer would remain free to discipline employee. Unless the law provides the employee with protection for exercising his constitutional and civil rights.

Oh, what a web is woven by trying to sanction only wrong speech. It's why we need law professors.

Howard said...

The first rule of jury nullification is you don't talk about jury nullification. Just like the first rule of doctor assisted suicide that has been performed for since forever on terminal patients.

Fen said...

I think he is responsible for his own actions and she is guilty of a lesser crime.

Gahrie said...

OK..so we release her and give her a couple of million for her pain and suffering. After her homecoming parade is over, and she has put away the Key to the City, she can start up her own YouTube channel. She'll encourage suicidal boys to call into her show. She'll pick an incel of the week and livestream her encouraging the boy over the phone/internet to kill himself.

Howard said...

Fen and Bleached Bit Bimbo from Babylon Beach Blanket Bingo have it about right.

rehajm said...

She’s too Pam Smartish. Gotta convict. That’s how it goes up around Salem.

Fen said...

"IF four robbers go into the bank, and before hand the boss tells them, NO GUN SHOTS!!!.If one of them in fact shoots a person..."

Good point. If my petty theft results in the loss of life, its now felony murder right?

I'm confused on this one. I may be overcompensating in an attempt to ignore the emotional monstrosity of taunting someone to take their own life

Ann Althouse said...

"Do you think it’s impossible to commit manslaughter by verbally encouraging/inducing suicide, regardless of the encourager’s mental state?"

If you read my entire post that I linked to, you'll see that I talk about the idea that she's abetting a suicide or part of a conspiracy to commit suicide. Abetting and conspiracy are standard ways in criminal to include people who are not the direct actors in a crime. But the problem is that suicide itself isn't a crime. (We don't convict those who are unsuccessful at committing suicide of "attempted suicide.") Carter was convicted by portraying the direct actor (the dead person) as not having any mind at all, thus getting it into the category of manslaughter, which is defined in the statutes as killing another person, not killing yourself.

In short, to answer your question, yes. Because suicide is not a crime.

But the question addressed to the U.S. Supreme Court is based on free speech (not due process and the construction of the criminal law statutes). It's about punishing someone for having a frank and controversial conversation about suicide with someone who is suicidal.

traditionalguy said...

Free will is an ideal. Mind control is the reality. Using it to abuse those in weak mental states is as criminal as abusing underage women and the old folks. The Free Will = they are responsible and not me defense is not winning anymore than the Priests at Catholic Church raping boys and girls

Ann Althouse said...

I'll watch the HBO documentary, and it may change my mind, but I think Carter was prosecuted and convicted for having a disapproved of point of view and for lacking a better perspective on life and lacking the kind of empathy people want to see in others.

Lucid-Ideas said...

It would take a quite a feat of logic and reasoning to convince me that a person can be 'forced' to commit suicide.

That said, I am open to hearing such an argument.

Howard said...

Blogger traditionalguy said...

Free will is an ideal. Mind control is the reality. Using it to abuse those in weak mental states is as criminal as abusing underage women and the old folks. The Free Will = they are responsible and not me defense is not winning anymore than the Priests at Catholic Church raping boys and girls


Good point. It's akin to con men swindling life savings from oldsters and dupes

Howard said...

To follow on in her defense: you can't cheat an honest man, so there's that. Obviously not a black and white issue.

gilbar said...

if you are robbing a bank, you are engaged in a felony
IF someone dies DUE TO THAT FELONY, you have committed murder (at least in iowa)

Iowa case:
a guy committed a felony (robbed a Casey's or something), Police gave chase
Police Pilot in air pursuit had mechanical problems, and crashed, and died
GUY CHARGED WITH 1st DEGREE MURDER

On the other hand,
Does this mean that the band Crash and the Boys would be liable if someone killed themselves after listening to their hit song WE HATE YOU, PLEASE DIE?

Gahrie said...

If you read my entire post that I linked to, you'll see that I talk about the idea that she's abetting a suicide or part of a conspiracy to commit suicide. Abetting and conspiracy are standard ways in criminal to include people who are not the direct actors in a crime. But the problem is that suicide itself isn't a crime.

But in most places, assisting a suicide is a crime. Can we agree that at the very least she assisted the guy in committing suicide?

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Food for thought for me in this post.

1. You might love someone and genuinely believe suicide is right for them, even while they (the potential suicide) go back and forth. Obviously in some religions this is a sin, and the person encouraging the suicide is abetting a sin, but in U.S. law?

2. It is hard to prove that the encouragement of someone who says she loves you makes all the difference between committing suicide and not. As others are saying, the agency is still with the suicide.

3. One I hadn't really thought of: a really nasty suicidal person (I knew someone who said a suicide is usually or always meant to hurt some of the living) might go back and forth on the act precisly to draw in the friend/lover, and implicate them in an alleged crime.

rhhardin said...

Crowds have always shouted jump at jumpers.

rhhardin said...

Put the sue back in suicide.

Fernandistein said...

But in most places, assisting a suicide is a crime.

Talking isn't assisting, unless....if, in phone-text conversations, I suggest you should invest in a certain stock, or buy lottery tickets, and you make a bunch of money, how much of it do you owe me for assisting you?

Gahrie said...

But in most places, assisting a suicide is a crime.

Talking isn't assisting, unless.


I believe the trial established the fact that he would not have gone through with the suicide without her goading him. That is assisting.

madAsHell said...

When I earned my Civics merit badge, there was a Jewish lawyer that berated me with "YOU CAN"T YELL FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER!!!"

Browndog said...

Hard to argue she did nothing wrong. Also hard to argue no person can talk another person in despair into suicide.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Behind every successfully suicidal man, is a woman

Jamie said...

Is a person with depression considered to have diminished capacity? After all, that person's brain chemistry causes him to perceive the world inaccurately - to see it as a dark and hopeless place, regardless of the reality of his situation.

What if this girl was in Best Buddies with a kid with severe Downs as her buddy? Let's say her buddy, a person with diminished capacity, believed that he could sneak his parents' car keys and drive himself to the mall. Our heroine, perhaps with no ill intent, only a desire to help her buddy feel good about himself and following her generation's conviction that everyone's self-perception must be valid and validated, tells her buddy that of course he can. Her buddy believes her and does it and causes an accident. She didn't conspire with him; she may not have realized the power she had over him. But morally she has a measure of responsibility for what he did anyway.

The question that arises, for me, has already been alluded to above: is she horrified at the fact that her friend followed through on his suicide, perhaps thinking that through her conversation she was making the choice of life vs. death seem more stark to him and therefore goading him toward choosing *life*? Or was she trying her own power, and we as a society now run the risk that she has developed a taste for clean-hands, unprosecutable murder?

rhhardin said...

The pen is mightier than the word.

rhhardin said...

The next step will be criminalizing nagging.

Jamie said...

And a problem I see with my long post above is that people with depression already don't seek help often or early enough because of the stigma. Labeling them as having diminished capacity would not help that much more widespread problem

PJ said...

Ann, I do not suggest that Michelle is guilty as a conspirator or an accomplice of the suicide, and therefore it doesn’t matter whether suicide is itself a crime in the relevant jurisdiction. I agree that if Michelle is guilty at all, she must be guilty of recklessly causing the death of another, i.e. manslaughter (the crime of which she was convicted). The question is whether verbal conduct by person A can ever be the “cause” of conduct intentionally engaged in by B. It plainly cannot be the “last clear chance” cause, because B had the last chance to refrain from the conduct. But A’s verbal conduct can certainly be a “but for” cause of B’s action, and if a factfinder determines that such cause has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and that A had an appropriately guilty mental state (knowledge that there was a significant risk of death to another and recklessness as to whether death would occur), is A still off the hook because it was only speech?

Ann Althouse said...

"But in most places, assisting a suicide is a crime. Can we agree that at the very least she assisted the guy in committing suicide?"

Show me the text of the statute that applies where this happened.

The text needs to be clear, and ambiguities have to be interpreted to favor the accused. Do you want mere words, spoken or written by someone who isn't physically present, to be enough? Would you really apply that across the board, to everyone who says, look, you can kill yourself if that's what you really want, but I'm tired of talking about it (or some such thing)?

Show me the statute. I don't think the text is there.

Ann Althouse said...

@PJ

If the dead man's act was not criminal homicide, how can it be repositioned as homicide to get to this other person who wasn't there and didn't act? It seems you have to exclude what he did as not an act at all but just an automatic response to her pushing a button in him. I don't think there's statutory support for that theory.

mtrobertslaw said...

When the boy got out of the truck, one could argue he no longer wanted to commit suicide. The girl, however, took advantage of his weakened mental state and convinced him to get back in his truck and kill himself. Without her encouragement, he would be alive today She was the necessary cause of his subsequent action.

Ann Althouse said...

""But in most places, assisting a suicide is a crime. Can we agree that at the very least she assisted the guy in committing suicide?" Show me the text of the statute that applies where this happened."

Also, she was convicted of manslaughter. If there were an assisted suicide statute with the right text to reach what she did, why wasn't it used?

buster said...

Jury nullification means that a verdict of acquittal in a criminal prosecution can't be appealed whether or not the jury followed the law. It does not mean that the jury has a legal privilege to ignore the law. By definition, a jury is acfing extra-legally when it does not apply the law. The reason judges don't give instructions on jury nullification is that they have no authority to act extra-legally. If they misstate the law to the jury, a verdict of acquittal can be appealed.

Ann Althouse said...

"When the boy got out of the truck, one could argue he no longer wanted to commit suicide. The girl, however, took advantage of his weakened mental state and convinced him to get back in his truck and kill himself. Without her encouragement, he would be alive today She was the necessary cause of his subsequent action."

Is it a crime to make a persuasive argument? You can say it's not a crime and still believe she did something terrible and is morally responsible. I think she too was depressed and struggling. If 2 suicidal people have conversations about suicide and one survives, should we pile onto that person and make her life not worth living?

richlb said...

Guy standing on ledge of tall building ready to end it. Onlookers yell "JUMP!"

gilbar said...

What if this girl was in Best Buddies with a kid with severe Downs as her buddy?

What if the girl was BBF's with another girl; that was pregnant, and her fetus had Downs syndrome?
AND the girl talked her friend into Keeping the fetus
Could/Should the girl be charged with wrongful life?

SDaly said...

What if you see a 5-year old with a loaded gun, and you say, "Put it up to your head and pull the trigger." Is that free speech too?

How can you even discuss this issue in the context of free speech without addressing the concept of incitement, which is a crime based entirely on speech. Also, "hostile work environment" claims are often based entirely on speech, and yet are subject to sanction (not criminal, but that doesn't really matter for 1st Amendment analysis). Unlike "hostile work environment" claims, the chilling effect on protected speech from prosecuting Carter is de minimus.

Kay said...

What she did was bad, but it has never sat well with me that she should be punished for telling someone to do something. At some point the kid committing suicide makes his own choice to do what he will to himself.

JAORE said...

Yeah,let's fill the prisons.

How many people tweet words like "Eat crap and die,you Fascist bastard", or "Kill yourself". Where is THAT line?

Mark said...

Cert. denied.

Darrell said...

Did somebody send her Chuck's email and cell?

Darrell said...

Somebody in the crowd always yells "Jump!" whenever somebody is on a ledge.

Unless you prosecute them all, it is a miscarriage of justice.

Mark said...

I posted this before back in 2017. I'll post it again.

Under the common law, a person providing assistance to a suicide is guilty of criminal homicide because killing itself is wrong, regardless of who commits it. Just as an accessory who aids a principal to kill a victim is guilty of murder, even though he did not pull the trigger but only words of counsel or encouragement, so too is one who assists self-killing guilty of murder.

See -- Persampieri v. Commonwealth, 343 Mass. 19, 175 N.E.2d 387 (1961) (supplying rifle and taunting drunk and depressed victim who had threatened suicide is murder); Burnett v. People, 204 Ill. 208, 68 N.E. 505 (1903)(aiding or encouraging victim to overdose on morphine is murder); People v. Kent, 41 Misc. 191, 83 NYS 948 (1903)(encouraging and assisting woman to commit suicide by cutting throat is manslaughter); State v. Webb, 216 Mo. 378, 115 S.W. 998 (1909)(defendant could be guilty of manslaughter even when he is shot by victim, who then shoots herself by agreement); Farrell v. State, 111 Ark. 180, 163 S.W. 768 (1914) (supplying morphine to victim and enticing her to kill herself is murder); People v. Duffy, 586 N.Y.S.2d 150, app.den. 80 NY2d 929 (1992)(giving loaded rifle to depressed victim and encouraging him to kill himself is manslaughter).

rhhardin said...

Scott Adams is droning on again. He risks a manslaughter charge if he keeps it up.

Fen said...

Howard: Fen has it about right.

Aaah! A first step into the Dark Side. You've only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy!

Laslo Spatula said...

Sometimes a sin doesn't necessarily break a law.

I find her morally reprehensible, but am not convinced there is a crime here.

Basically, she was a really aggressive telemarketer.

And what she was saying is not much different than what people say on Twitter every day.

Without suicide and abortion we will never create the World Of Tomorrow.

I am Laslo.

narayanan said...

So she was good at
NUDGE (Cass Sunstein) and
PERSUASION (Dr. Robert Cialdini)

which of these apply in case under discussion?
6 Principles of Persuasion

Reciprocity
Scarcity
Authority
Consistency
Liking
Consensus

Fernandistein said...

I believe the trial established the fact that he would not have gone through with the suicide without her goading him.

Predicting an alternate future is not a fact, it's a fantasy.

You can't define "assisting" based on a fantasy about something that didn't happen...well, some goofy judge might do so, and apparently did.

Lawrence Moniz of Bristol County, reasoned that her “virtual presence” made her responsible for her boyfriend’s death.

Did I remember to say "goofy judge"?

"Virtual presence" means not actually present. We're all "virtually present" to each other on this blog, so I say "Go ahead and kill yourself, whoever is reading this" and they do and it's my fault. Or maybe google's fault.

Did I remember to say "goofy judge"?

Fen said...

Hard to argue she did nothing wrong. Also hard to argue no person can talk another person in despair into suicide.

There's another angle to this too. Your friend is in chronic emotional pain. At first, you view that as most normals do - a depressed individual in a weakened mental condition that needs medical attention. And you walk him through all that, the counseling, nagging him about his meds, etc. But none of it works.

And you begin to see your friend as a person suffering in agony, day after day after day, in a way that most people would not understand. Hell, you didn't really understand the depths of this despair until you rode it out by his side.

He only seeks mercy, he wants to end it, but keep's chickening out. Three or four times now. Now he's stuck in a cycle with no way out, just more suffering and then shame that he can't find the discipline to escape all the pain. He asks you to help him be strong when the moment comes, that he really wants this.

You get a call one night asking for help. He's almost there but he lost his nerve again, and is terrified of living the rest of his life in such pain.

You tell him to get back in the car and finish it.

Fen said...

And a problem I see with my long post above is that people with depression already don't seek help often or early enough because of the stigma.

I think it's also because normals have a hard time relating to how much the depressed are suffering. I think an interesting poll would be:

"If you had to spend the rest of your life in chemotherapy, would you consider suicide?"

And use two groups, those that have experienced chemo and those that have not.

I think the former would have a much higher "yes" response.

Gahrie said...

Is it a crime to make a persuasive argument? You can say it's not a crime and still believe she did something terrible and is morally responsible. I think she too was depressed and struggling. If 2 suicidal people have conversations about suicide and one survives, should we pile onto that person and make her life not worth living?

Am I the only one who believes that if the genders were switched, and he goaded her into killing herself, we would be having a much different conversation?

elkh1 said...

I think the act that cinched her conviction was instructing him to go back to the truck. It's like she pushed him when he had second thoughts about jumping off the cliff.

Don't think she would get off with a First Amendment claim. Yelling fire in a crowded theatre is not free speech, telling a suicidal person who had second thoughts to finish himself is not free speech.

How can any one be that mean? She deserves what she gets.

Mark said...

The free speech argument is so specious, it borders on the frivolous. As noted by many, it has never been a defense to a variety of criminal offenses and torts. In fact, many crimes can be committed only by use of speech.

Especially when someone is taking advantage of a person under duress, the law is there. Whether it is using undue influence to get someone to change their will, or whether someone uses mere words with a drunk woman to get her to have sex with him, or they encourage someone to pull a trigger that results in someone's death (even their own death), the fact that it is speech is and never has been a defense.

Mark said...

I doubt the petition will get a single vote for certiorari.

iowan2 said...

I believe the trial established the fact that he would not have gone through with the suicide without her goading him. That is assisting.

Established the fact of the negative. Very interesting. How does that work?

elkh1 said...

Fen, your story is a cheap drama. If your friend is like that, ignore him and let him do whatever he wants. Pain, what the hell is pain? Give him a ticket to a war zone to experience real pain.

Get the hell out of such a toxic "friendship". Let someone else deal with it. You are not his savior.

The woman's defense should be "I was weak, he dragged me into his hell. He had to go and release me from his hell." She needs to find some psychiatrists to agree with her and give her some impressive sounding diagnosis. She was the "victim" trying to save herself. The woman's biggest mistake was opting for a non-jury trial.

iowan2 said...

buster said...
Jury nullification means that a verdict of acquittal in a criminal prosecution can't be appealed whether or not the jury followed the law. It does not mean that the jury has a legal privilege to ignore the law. By definition, a jury is acfing extra-legally when it does not apply the law. The reason judges don't give instructions on jury nullification is that they have no authority to act extra-legally. If they misstate the law to the jury, a verdict of acquittal can be appealed.


I don't know who fed you that line of bull, but it is not based on law.
Juries are your's and mine, protection against a lawless government, passing and imposing laws the people do not agree to. How do you prosecute a jury that refuses to apply the law? There is no process. Think OJ Simpson.

Prohibition collapsed largely because juries started to refuse to convict their fellow citizens, using laws they no longer agreed with.

hombre said...

The “jump, jump” analogy is a good one. So the guy jumps. Does the paddy wagon roll up to transport the arrested crowd to jail?

I don’t particularly like the First Amendment argument, but this case should be set aside. Who decides that the crowd yelling “jump” is not culpable, but Carter is? If the jumper doesn’t jump, is the crowd guilty of attempted manslaughter?

The decision of Carter’s “victim” or the jumper is the sine qua non of the suicide. Carter and the “jump” screamers don’t cause the death.

“Virtual presence?” Seriously?

Yancey Ward said...

I think the case should be tossed on free speech grounds, though I do think the prosecution was justified under the law- I just think the law itself is wrong here. If the case is taken up and overturned on free speech grounds, then I think procedure was properly followed.

Yancey Ward said...

"Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that the result of that speech is beyond the law. Speech advocating action should still be liable to legal action."

This is why we have torts.

Yancey Ward said...

"A man and a woman are robbing a bank. The bank guard resists, so the man threatens him with a gun. The woman goads him into shooting and killing the guard. Is she responsible for the death? Can she be tried for murder?

How is this case any different? Suicide is a crime, just like bank robbery."


In the first case, the woman is already committing the crime of bank robbery herself, in the second case she isn't committing the crime of suicide.

Richard said...

A while back there was a push to make it a crime to text someone whom you had reason to believe was driving if that person got into an accident while reading your text message. Did any jurisdiction pass that law, and if someone were convicted because of that law, would it be relevant to this case?

Mark said...

I see in the petition that Carter's lawyers would have the Court essentially abolish the common law on vagueness grounds.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

does intent a la J. Comey factor in?

Laslo Spatula said...

From Wiki:

"Suicide Is Painless is a song written by Johnny Mandel (music) and Michael Altman (lyrics). It was the theme song for both the movie and TV series M*A*S*H. Mike Altman was 14 years old when he wrote the song’s lyrics...

...Director Robert Altman had two stipulations about the song for Mandel: it had to be called "Suicide Is Painless" and it had to be the "stupidest song ever written".[3] Altman attempted to write the lyrics himself, but upon finding it too difficult for his 45-year-old brain to write "stupid enough,"[4] he gave the task to his 14-year-old-son Michael, who wrote the lyrics in five minutes...

...During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s, Robert Altman said that while he only made $70,000 for having directed the movie, his son had earned more than $1 million for having co-written the song."

Now go binge-watch some MASH reruns and throw Alan Alda in jail.

I am Laslo.

Fen said...

your story is a cheap drama. If your friend is like that, ignore him and let him do whatever he wants. Pain, what the hell is pain? Give him a ticket to a war zone to experience real pain.

Good example of what I mean when I say normals have a hard time relating to how much the depressed are suffering.

I've served as a Marine in Iraq and Somalia. I've also suffered from chronic depression.

Guess which one I found to be more painful?

It's weird that in this day and age, we are still surrounded by the "just pop a motrin" sentiment, as if depression was just a headache to endure.

Bob said...

Fen mulled, '"If you had to spend the rest of your life in chemotherapy, would you consider suicide?"'

That turns out to be a very strange and paradoxical question.

I know someone with metastatic cancer who is in chemotherapy for the rest of his life. As the prognosis (with chemotherapy) is not that much better than without, the rest of his life is not likely a long haul.

For him, quitting chemotherapy (because it is unpleasant) is a kind of suicide but not a suicide with a date certain and a promise of reduced suffering before that date.

So, the question you pose really is, "If you faced a life of poor health and considerable and guaranteed suffering, would you consider suicide?"

Consider it? Yes. Do it? Won't know until I'm there. And that assumes I have the capacity at the time to carry it out.

Mark said...

Depression leads to the death of over 40,000 people each year.

Physical pain and suffering lead to a couple thousand at most.

bagoh20 said...

Althouse has argued that suicide is "self-murder". If so, what is the difference between what she did and what Charles Manson did and was convicted of as 1st degree murder. In fact, what she did was even more direct than what Manson did.

"... the prosecution conceded that Manson never literally ordered the murders, they contended that his ideology constituted an overt act of conspiracy" ~ Wikipedia

Mark said...

The word for "self-murder" in Latin is "suicide" -- a combination of sui- and -cide.

Hence the term in the law.

bagoh20 said...

"Free speech" is a legal term too. It does not precisely mean free or speech.

Karen of Texas said...

I happen to have a very dear friend who bounces from suicidal ideation to attempts with pills and alcohol almost weekly now. There is cutting. She has attempted via car in garage and hanging - stopped by her 65+ year old mom on those two occasions. She constantly tells me she wishes to die - that she isn't dead yet but that she's working on it. This has been going on literally for years. She is bipolar with a personality disorder. Married. Teenage twins - one autistic. I don't know how many times, at all hours of the night, I talked her down, through, whatever. She self committed twice. Is in therapy and on medication. Her second husband now bears the brunt of her inability to want to live.

At some point, to protect yourself, you have to develop a bit of distance; that emotional distance also let's you continue to try to help. I don't think Michelle developed distance because she had issues herself. She snapped, I think; and if that's how it went down, I can understand.

SDaly said...

Yancey -

Are you saying that "free speech" prevents criminal prosecution, but doesn't come into play in tort law? Because I think you are wrong. The government cannot establish a "tort" based upon speech and then allow someone to sue you for damages (although antidiscrimination law, in reality, does that, courts generally side step around that).

Speech advocating illegal action has long been criminalized as incitement. It is considered a "verbal act" like extortion (another crime based entirely upon speech).

Karen of Texas said...

*lets, dang it...

Gahrie said...

In the first case, the woman is already committing the crime of bank robbery herself, in the second case she isn't committing the crime of suicide.

No, she's committing the crime of assisting a suicide.

Laslo Spatula said...

Karen of Texas 7/9/19, 1:57 PM...
"...At some point, to protect yourself, you have to develop a bit of distance; that emotional distance also let's you continue to try to help. I don't think Michelle developed distance because she had issues herself. She snapped, I think; and if that's how it went down, I can understand."

Good point.

Depression / mental illness is a bitch for the person who has it, but it can be torturous to those around them, too.

People fall away, and the few that may remain get tired of having to endlessly hold up the light at the edge of the cave: arms get tired.

I am Laslo.

Joan said...

I'm confused by the argument that speech is not an action, particularly in the 1A context. Flag-burning, which involves no vocal apparatus, is protected under 1A as free speech, so clearly actions are speech. Rudimentary logic suggests that speech is therefore an action.

There is no comparison between Carter's actions (speech!) in this case and those of a crowd of yelling "Jump!" to a ledge-walker. Carter was in an intense personal relationship with the young man and was communicating with him personally and directly. Random people yelling "Jump!" hundreds of feet away are not in the same category.

Fen's scenario could have provided a plausible defense for Carter, but she didn't propose it. Suicidal ideation is depression's "tell" - healthy people don't want to end their lives. Chronic pain can lead to depression, and depression causes chronic pain. Doesn't matter which came first, the result is the same.

If you've never been in the pit it's pretty much impossible to understand what it's like. One thing that was true for me is that I relied on the people around me to give me something to stick around for. Life-affirming, you could say. If I were surrounded by people telling me to give up? I don't want to think about it is the most honest answer I can make.

I don't know if Carter is guilty of manslaughter but I do know that I have no problem with her defective character being a widespread topic of discussion.

PM said...

"Fire!"
"Shoot!"

EDH said...

If so, what is the difference between what she did and what Charles Manson did and was convicted of as 1st degree murder.

On the second night, Manson actually broke into the house and tied up the LaBiancas before sending in the killers.

The following night, Manson decided to join his followers on their killing spree. The group randomly targeted grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home. Manson tied up the victims before his followers murdered them.

Doug said...

The next step will be criminalizing nagging.
I promise I will write to my wife in prison.

Rabel said...

If the sex guru at Nxivm, ‎Keith Raniere‎, had, by use of multiple texts and phone calls over an extended period of time, used his influence over one of his acolytes to convince her to commit suicide, would he have been guilty of a crime?

The existing relationship between the two Mass. teens and the persistence of her calls for his suicide complicate the free speech argument.

bagoh20 said...

"On the second night, Manson actually broke into the house and tied up the LaBiancas before sending in the killers."

I never knew that. I always thought he stayed behind the whole time, but you are correct, sir.

Narr said...

Persuading someone to kill him- or her-self is hard. Believe me, I've tried.

Narr
I tried bribery, and asking politely, first

PJ57 said...

Lawyer goobledyeook from the Law Professor. Involuntary manslaughter is reckless or wanton conduct that results in the death of another. Even free speech acolytes recognize that speech can be tantamount to other forms of action, depending on the context. No court has ever protected yelling fire in a crowded theater. Here the speech occurred as the victim was making his final disordered choice. No chance the Supreme Court will take this case up. Bad facts make bad law.

The Vault Dweller said...

Even free speech acolytes recognize that speech can be tantamount to other forms of action

Speech is only action when it threatens action. Like, "I'm going to burn your house down;" "I'm going to kill your kids;" or "I'm going to kill you in a very painful way." All those threatened actions are already illegal uses of force. Now I'm not saying that every bit of speech has to threaten an illegal use of force in order for it to be criminal. For example if someone threatened to disclose an incredibly humiliating and embarrassing fact about a person unless they commit suicide I would consider that criminal, but merely telling a person they should kill themselves shouldn't be criminal. But that would already seem to be a case of blackmailing someone to kill themselves.

Fen said...

Am I the only one who believes that if the genders were switched, and he goaded her into killing herself, we would be having a much different conversation?

Yup. I have to admit that I would probably be doing a 180 if the girl was the victim.

And that's a kind of Chauvinism too.

I banish myself to the corner table with my bottle of Stoli.

Narr said...

The gender thing never occurred to me, but yeah, it would be a completely different case in the public eye, no doubt about it.

Narr
The guy would fry

bagoh20 said...

What if she told him to play the lottery, and he won? Would she be responsible for that and have a right to half or more of the cash?

bagoh20 said...

I do not think a reverse of gender would make a difference to me. In a situation like this one a woman can have incredible power over a weak or needy man.

narciso said...

A psycho stalker showed up next door, and drew ta map to palins back door, you think that might make people hesitant to run.

Yancey Ward said...

"Are you saying that "free speech" prevents criminal prosecution, but doesn't come into play in tort law?"

That is exactly what I am saying. Torts are proven/disproven by private parties in the court of law, not by the government in this particular case. I have a long distrust of the incitement laws because there are no clear boundaries in any of the cases using them. Telling someone to commit a crime shouldn't be a crime itself.

"No, she's committing the crime of assisting a suicide."

Well, no she didn't assist the suicide as far as I know- the guy who killed himself seems to have acquired everything he needed to do it, but I am willing to be proven wrong. Giving encouragement isn't assistance, in my opinion.


PJ said...

Telling someone to commit a crime shouldn't be a crime itself.

I agree with this, but I don’t think it reflects the theory under which Michelle was prosecuted. As our hostess pointed out above, suicide may not be a crime in the relevant jurisdiction, and in any case the theory of manslaughter is not merely that a person is criminally responsible for whatever conduct she told someone else to perform that resulted in a death.

The issue is whether one person’s speech can “cause” another person’s death. An obvious (but not analogous) example would be repeatedly telling someone to “step back” until that person fell off a cliff. If the speaker did this with intent to cause the victim’s death, it would be murder. If the speaker was aware of a significant risk that the victim would fall off the cliff and die, but recklessly told the victim to “step back” anyway, it would be manslaughter.

That situation is distinguishable from the one under discussion because Michelle’s alleged victim was well aware of the risk of death before following her instruction, and thus was in a position to save himself if he wished. So the issue here is whether a person’s speech can “cause” another’s death for purposes of manslaughter if it causes (persuades) the victim to choose death. To dramatize, suppose the victim had texted, “Forget it Michelle, I’m going home,” and she had replied, “If you love me, you’ll get back in that truck and end it right now.” At trial, the factfinder determines beyond a reasonable doubt that that communication caused the victim to get back in his truck, leading to his death. The factfinder also determines that Michelle was aware of a high degree of risk that the victim would do what she told him to do and would die as a result, and that Michelle acted recklessly with respect to the victim's death when she sent the reply. I can see an argument that the victim’s voluntary act of getting back into the truck, though directly traceable to Michelle’s communication, broke the causal connection between Michelle's speech and the ensuing death. But I don’t think that argument is obviously meritorious.