In a case handed down in the US last week, 20-year old Michelle Carter has been the first person to ever be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, for her role in the suicide of her then boyfriend, Conrad Roy. Roy had died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning and was found dead in his pickup truck on July 13, 2014.
The Court heard that up to the moment Roy fell unconscious from the toxic fumes, Carter was on the phone with him. Despite being able to hear the motor running and Roy coughing as a result of the fumes, Carter ordered her boyfriend to get back into his truck, after he had second thoughts about following through with his suicide attempt and got out. In the ruling, the judge stated that Carter’s conduct constituted “Wanton and reckless conduct, where there was a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would arise to Mr Roy.”
In the lead up to his suicide, it was found that Carter had sent numerous texts belittling Roy for failing to follow through with his threats of suicide and made him promise her that he would in the near future. Carter even sent him research on various methods under which Roy could carry out his attempts, including hanging, jumping off a building, and carbon monoxide poisoning (the method the deceased eventually chose).
Whilst not setting a precedent, this case will have substantial effects in the United States on how they deal with cases of a similar nature, which have previously been unsuccessful until now.
In Australia under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), an act or omission with reckless indifference to human life may constitute an offence of murder manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of the case. Whilst this American case does not directly affect our legal system and its precedents, it does raise a contentious issue in regards to how these cases should be dealt with.
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