Fact or Fiction: You Can Be Prosecuted for Encouraging or Causing Someone’s Suicide

This is true! People have been criminally prosecuted for manslaughter without ever laying a finger on the suicide victim, although it varies from state to state.

Image Source: thephileasfoggreport.com

Image Source: thephileasfoggreport.com

In Missouri, a Dairy Queen manager has been charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter after a teen she supervised committed suicide.

The 21-year old manager, Harley Branham, was charged after witnesses testified about her alleged treatment of 17-year old Kenneth Suttner at an inquest called by the coroner. Witnesses said the manager made Suttner lie on the restaurant floor as he cleaned it by hand, and that she once threw a cheeseburger at Suttner because he made it wrong.

The coroner also heard that Suttner was also bullied at school by students who made fun of his weight and speech impediment. Even though the coroner’s jury blamed both the Dairy Queen and the School District, the Dairy Queen manager was still charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter.

William F. Melchert-Dinkel was a Minnesota nurse who encouraged people in Internet chat rooms to live-stream their own hangings. He allegedly told people what methods of suicide worked best, that it was a decent choice to commit suicide, that they would be better off in heaven, and pretended to enter into suicide pacts with them. In 2011 Melchert-Dinkel was found guilty of two counts under a Minnesota law under which it was illegal to “advise” or “encourage” suicide. The Minnesota Supreme Court later ruled that criminalizing “advising” or “encouraging” suicide violated the First Amendment. But he was tried again, and convicted of “assisting” a suicide, even though he never physically met his victims.

William Melchert            Image Source: nydailynews.com

William Melchert Image Source: nydailynews.com

In a 1991 decision called Eisel v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, Maryland, the court held that “school counselors have a duty to use reasonable means to attempt to prevent a suicide when they are on notice of a child or adolescent student’s suicidal intent.” The court concluded that school counselors had a duty to notify parents after their child had made suicidal statements at school.

In 2015, the family of a teenage boy in Connecticut sued their town and school district, alleging that school officials knew that the boy was being bullied severely, but failed to take steps to protect him before he committed suicide. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that school staff failed to investigate the bullying against him and failed to discipline the bullies, in violation of school district policies put in place in response to a 2011 state anti-bullying law.

Massachusetts is one of the few states where assisting or encouraging suicide is not illegal. That’s why prosecutors there charged 17-year old Michelle Carter with involuntary manslaughter after she goaded her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, into killing himself.

Michelle Carter  Image Source: masslive.com

Michelle Carter
Image Source: masslive.com

“Tonight is the night. It’s now or never,” Carter wrote in one of her many messages to Roy, encouraging him to kill himself. Carter also helped him research suicide methods and assured him that his family would be okay with his death.

Roy killed himself by running a combustible engine inside his truck and poisoned himself with carbon monoxide. Midway through the attempt, Roy got out of the truck and called Carter. She told him to finish the job. “Get back in,” she wrote in a text message.

While some jurists are concerned with the implications that such cases have on free speech, the Massachusetts prosecutors argued that Carter’s command to Roy to get back in the truck to complete the suicide is akin to threats, which are not protected by the First Amendment.

In a personal injury lawsuit against someone who allegedly caused someone else’s suicide, the main question is going to be whether or not the defendant’s actions were significant enough to cause the person’s suicide. Specifically, was it reasonably likely that the deceased person would have committed suicide as a result of the defendant’s actions?

What do you think? Should it be illegal to encourage suicide even when the perpetrator has never met the victim? Should bullies be prosecuted for causing suicides even if they had no direct involvement in the suicide itself?

48 comments on “Fact or Fiction: You Can Be Prosecuted for Encouraging or Causing Someone’s Suicide

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Karen T Hale on

      People commit suicide when they are in emotionally abusive relationships and the person doing the abuse I believe should be held accountable for it because they know what they’re doing when they push someone over the edge and tragically this happens all the time.

      Reply
  2. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
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      Leianna Hansen on

      I’m trying to get the local authorities to press charges against my sons girlfriend who encouraged him to kill him self and join his aborted son. She brought him a loaded gun and then walked away. The next day she claimed all of his possessions. The next week she was hooked up with his friend. They say she’s not broken any laws. My son is dead and she repeatedly told him to do it. Not broken any laws ?!?!? Someone please HELP!

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Allyson on

      It’s at least manslaughter if not murder, because some of these cases have to do with bullying to the point someone commits suicide. It should be attempted murder if the suicide is not completed.

      Sure, freedom of speech and all, but you can’t yell fire in a theatre, kids can’t bully others at school either on school grounds or online. Same should go for adults who are old enough to know better to not push someone to suicide!

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Angel on

      i broke up with this girl because she became very toxic…i kept begging her to be safe but once she found i was dating someone else later on she told me i should kill myself and then slit her own wrists. shes alright now, in the hosptial recovering. will i be prosecuted?

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Kane on

      This encouraging one to commit suicide is a rampant problem in the online gaming communities I see it several times a day. A young man who played Eve Online some years ago actually did commit suicide after months of torment and suggestions from another individual. That Individual was brought up on charges and found guilty of 2nd degree man slaughter… Moral here is, If you’re a parent pay close attention to your children if they’re involved in online game play in mass multiplayer environments. the Chat is not monitored in most cases…

      Reply
  3. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
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    Andy Dale on

    “Massachusetts is one of the few states where assisting or encouraging suicide is not illegal. That’s why prosecutors there charged 17-year old Michelle Carter with involuntary manslaughter ”

    If it’s not illegal why was she charged with involuntary manslaughter?

    Reply
  5. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Gio on

    Yes this is murder in my book. I was bullied in a matter of 2 days in Xbox voice chat by 2 young men I once considered friend. we have known each other since high school. I want to know though if they can be charge with a crime, main relating to this and cyber-bulling since this was again done over Xbox Voice chat. one of these young men is in Texas and the other is in California like me so I need to know if both could be charge in California even if I did not commit suicide but their bulling pushed me over the edge where my family had to stop me. if it were not for my family and 2 of my other friends (one of whom has gone threw this crap before and I had to talk him out of it) I would not be here right now.

    Reply
  6. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Chuck Spong on

    Was it illegal to encourage colonists to board a rickety ship and travel 1000s of miles across an ocean in 1692. Where is self determination disappeared to in this country. Ignore the person. Duhhh!!! Suicide is a selfish personal decision.

    Reply
  7. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    stephanie helms on

    my son just passed away in may of 2019 from suicide. his girlfriend and baby momma beat him. i was a victim of domestic violence and i raised him to never hurt a woman. he took it. he was three times her size and she beat him sometimes you couldn’t recognize his face. He put a gun to his head and asked her if thats what she wanted and she turned and walked away saying nothing. he left and used that gun 20 minutes after. so yes i agree. no charges have been filed and i dont think it will ever happen. my son had video of her attacking him and when he decided to press charges the police told him it wasnt enough. now he is gone cause he felt no one would help him even though i tried so hard.

    Reply
  8. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jordan on

    For an individual to commit suicide is most likely the result of a pre-existing mental condition,( as most suicides are known to be linked with them) and to suggest that one persons actions or words can directly cause someone to carry out this act is completely absurd. Let alone holding them legally responsible for an act they did not choose to commit. That said I don’t condone telling people to kill themselves. It’s pretty barbaric to actually suggest that.

    Reply
  9. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    John on

    In the old days, a murderer was to be put to death by the same means in which they killed. Not sure how that would work in this case…. It’s an extreme form of bullying, for sure, and should be prosecuted BEFORE somebody follows through with their own demise. Otherwise, it’s like being prosecuted for an attempted manslaughter in the second degree. Still need to revoke that person’s phone privileges or something though.

    Reply
  10. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
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    Katherine on

    It’s a ‘damned if you do , damned if you don’t ‘ scenario. The actions are wrong and should be perceived as a crime . However,
    Evil (people) paves a road to a worse scenario when the goal of criminalizing
    suicide by bullying/haggling is achieved .
    Evil will then falsify a lot of evidence for attempted murder and thousands of innocent people (mostly teens) will be convicted wrongfully. The upper hand has been in the wrong hands worldwide.

    Reply
  12. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Kevin johnston on

    A husband attempting to coercse his wife into signing her house to another while under the doctor for attempted suicided , within ,weeks resulting in a successful suicided and no signs of her signing her house .should also be illegal.

    Reply
  13. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Dan on

    Wrong dummies. If your so weak willed that bullying and being made fun of and harassed at work is gonna make you personally feel like killing yourself then I highly encourage those weak humans to off themselves and let us focus on bigger issues than peoples self esteem. Its self esteem your supposed to find it your self. People are terrible. They rape murder and kill this land. The less people on earth the better. And suicide is selfish and juvenile. Weak lame footed jokes of humans kill themselves. Strong willed people just keep on keeping on. Thats life. Deal with it or go kill yourself.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Lisa Anderson on

      Your just a special kind of hard core douchebag aren’t ya??? My nephew committed suicide in April after suffering for years with severe mental illness like depression anxiety PTSD from serving our country doing 4 tours in the middle east fighting for people like you that have such a skewed view of how you think people should just off them selves because they are weak! I think your weak and ignorant and I wouldn’t make statements and judgements about shit you don’t have personal knowledge of! My nephew was far from weak he was brave and strong minded and caring empathetic always helped others. Put others before himself! I’d like to see your ass in the desert ambushed on a routine military assignment bullets wizzing past your head! I doubt you’d go because your a scared ignorant person with an inflated sense of your importance on this earth! Opinions are like assholes everyone has one is what they say. Your an Asshole that needs to thank my nephew for protecting you from terrorists not calling him weak because he couldn’t handle his trauma from his courageous sacrifice doing extra tours than required to go. He also helped other veterans suffering from PTSD!!! When is the last one you helped anyone? Right! That’s what I thought! People like you really should eat some humble pie and get over
      your douchebaggery! Try being a decent person with some uplifting encouraging words for people Wlth mental and emotional wounds concerning a growing national concern among or brave soldiers. Thank them for keeping you safe so you can get online and talk out the side of your neck with ignorance about something you know nothing about: Strength Self Sacrifice Compassion

      Reply
  14. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    David on

    The most these people can, and should, be arrested for is harrassment and/or emotional abuse. Suicide is a choice made by the victim, and is not the responsibility of the person encouraging them. Claiming the victim had no choice opens the door to murderers claiming someone else ‘encouraged’ them to kill, and therefore they had no choice.

    Leave the feels out of the courtroom.

    Reply
  15. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Lisa kinsley on

    I would like to know if someone text you encouraging you to kill yourself after a funeral services can you Prosecute them

    Reply
  16. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Wyland on

    Abso fucking lutely!!! Under no circumstances should anyone think it’s okay to encourage others to kill themselves. It takes a long time to learn how to be happy and even when you think you’re happy, theirs always a chance of falling back into that abyss of dark thoughts. Suicide is a real thing and it’s not a battle that ends, anyone who encourages it deserves at minimal 1 year. 3 strikes and you’re hit with a year sentence. That’s fair.

    Reply
  17. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Dave Nichols on

    No, hurting someone’s feelings is not a crime. If a person is thin-skinned that’s their problem…it is never someone else’s fault for a suicide…that’s absurd.

    Reply
  18. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Eli on

    I came across this posting while I was researching whether a parent can be held legally responsible in causing adolescent suicide through emotional, mental, and physical abuse of a child based on the witness of other siblings. I have to wonder if my sibling would have survived adolescence had they been removed from the full custody of our mother at an earlier age before more intense abuse was directed. I just want to protect others from my mother and also to protect her from her own actions towards others. Yes! I do think my own mother should be held legally responsible for her actions against my sibling leading to suicide. My sibling hid any mental depression signs well. Perhaps, because of the coping mechanisms a child must develop in dealing with constant unpredictable reactions from the parent. My sibling was very friendly, had many friends, joked a lot, and enjoyed life. After calling the police on a case of physical abuse my mother attempted against my sibling in front of me, my sibling was given custody to her father and stepmother who showed great care and provided emotional support in her last year of life. Suicide was such a surprise to us all! Until we were able to read personal journals which opened our eyes to the pain that my sibling continue to endure from the trauma my mother enacted against her over the years. I know that emotional and mental neglect by a parent are not measurable means for evidence, but I do wish that it was more supported by the legal system especially concerning the well being of the adolescents in the United States. Abusive and narcissistic parents are persuasive and are good at controlling others and the truth that they let other people see.

    Reply
  19. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Dominic Johnson on

    A girl told me to kill myself because of something I posted on my story. I’m not going commit suicide but should I legally prosecute her for doing that? I have screenshots and all.

    Reply
  20. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Karen Foster on

    It should be illegal. I uncovered a plot to kill me by my own twin sister my boyfriend of 20 years and his new girlfriend of 3.5 YEARS. They all want my property and its worth only 100,000. I don’t know that I can do anything or prevent it from happening tho if they succeed I’d want it prosecuted. The abuse and attempt to drive me to suicide has made permanent scars and I don’t know that I will recover but I won’t commit suicide and will keep on struggling to fight another day.

    Reply
  21. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Detroit on

    no it depends on the severity of it. if your told by someone they are going to kill themselves over a period of time and you do nothing but you continue to do manipulative things and interact with your girlfriend or boyfriend then yes that person should be held accountable. now being prosecuted and the extent of what should happen should not be jail time but spent in a mental ward. i know a girl who has had 2 men kill themselves over her treatment. and shes doing this to a third person now. i dont know if she has a process but ive scene the text ive been the victim. she is ruined in the head already. some people only leave a relationship when they can deal with the other one being with other people. i know many women who get there dude caught up and arrested so they can go with another guy on his birthday. ive been the friend of a girl the victim the new guy tbe old guy and the guilty party for not stepping in when someone is loosing there shit. ive also step in many times and almost ended up kill myself after dealing with a toxic person. i know many who have watched people being killed in snuff and video of people killing themselves i dont know if they actually get off or if they are already dead inside. but my experience with them has me to strongly believe they need to be in treatment.

    Reply
  22. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  23. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jennifer Nodine on

    I want to know if someone can be charged with attempted murder if it can be proven that they tried to make another person’s life so intolerable that they would kill themselves.

    Reply
  24. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jaemi Kim on

    It is not neccessarily murder. At the end of the day, nobody can MAKE anyone do anything unless by physical force. If someone coerces someone else to do something, it is still the fault of the person who carried out that action. That is like me standing on the edge of a bridge and blaming bullies for my suicide when in reality I am the one that jumped. It would not ACTUALLY be the bullies fault unless they physically pushed me or threw me off the edge of the bridge and at that point, it would not be suicide. Yes, suicide is a tragedy, but at the same time you cannot try to blame someone else for the actions of another person. No one can MAKE you do anything, unless by physical force. This world is getting so soft that yall do not even hold people accountable for their own life choices and mistakes. It is sad that social justice has become more of a cruelty than actually being about justice.

    Reply
  25. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jaemi Kim on

    It is not neccessarily murder. At the end of the day, nobody can MAKE anyone do anything unless by physical force. If someone coerces someone else to do something, it is still the fault of the person who carried out that action. That is like me standing on the edge of a bridge and blaming bullies for my suicide when in reality I am the one that jumped. It would not ACTUALLY be the bullies fault unless they physically pushed me or threw me off the edge of the bridge and at that point, it would not be suicide. Yes, suicide is a tragedy, but at the same time you cannot try to blame someone else for the actions of another person. No one can MAKE you do anything, unless by physical force. This world is getting so soft that yall do not even hold people accountable for their own life choices and mistakes. It is sad that social justice has become more of a cruelty than actually being about justice. 🙁

    Reply
  26. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jaemi Kim on

    It is not neccessarily murder. At the end of the day, nobody can MAKE anyone do anything unless by physical force. If someone coerces someone else to do something, it is still the fault of the person who carried out that action. That is like me standing on the edge of a bridge and blaming bullies for my suicide when in reality I am the one that jumped. It would not ACTUALLY be the bullies fault unless they physically pushed me or threw me off the edge of the bridge and at that point, it would not be suicide. Yes, suicide is a tragedy, but at the same time you cannot try to blame someone else for the actions of another person. No one can MAKE you do anything, unless by physical force. This world is getting so soft that yall do not even hold people accountable for their own life choices and mistakes. It is sad that social justice has become more of a cruelty than actually being about justice.

    I like how this website keeps deleting my factual comments. This website is clearly made by a bunch of sjw crybabies who cannot handle the reality of how the world and logic works. Their heads are so far up their arses that they cannot comprehend anyone or anything that is not in agreement with them.

    Reply
  27. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Michael on

    So I had a girlfriend that had a daughter, her parents wanted to take her kid away. They wanted to be controlling when she should have her daughter or not, but I was helping to not let that happen. So we had the police to help get her kid. They got made and decided to go to court over her daughter. She had neighbors that hated my girlfriend and they were telling her parents lies about her. Her twin was in on it too, and they had won the case and she killed her self because of what they did. Now I’m all alone now because of it. I almost killed my self the next day but I realized I wasn’t really alone because I have a good family. I have friends and my gf had cats and I’m taking care of them now. I think that counts as murder for what her parents did, this is why suicides happen.

    Reply
  28. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Michael Humphrey on

    So I had a girlfriend that had a daughter, her parents wanted to take her kid away. They wanted to be controlling when she should have her daughter or not, but I was helping to not let that happen. So we had the police to help get her kid. They got made and decided to go to court over her daughter. She had neighbors that hated my girlfriend and they were telling her parents lies about her. Her twin was in on it too, and they had won the case and she killed her self because of what they did. Now I’m all alone now because of it. I almost killed my self the next day but I realized I wasn’t really alone because I have a good family. I have friends and my gf had cats and I’m taking care of them now. I think that counts as murder for what her parents did, this is why suicides happen.

    Reply
  29. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Sam on

    I feel anybody who caused psychological harm to a person driving that person to suicide must be given the death penalty and jailed. This can apply to psychologically or verbally abusive parents or guardians at home without laying a finger or other way round from kids to parents/guardians. Feel this shall apply to outside of home too.

    Reply
  30. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Val on

    Coerced suicide is not a law in Florida according to the state attny and you are actually allowed to leave when you want without an investigation.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Rita on

      writing to someone on social media and putting her in hospital because they killed someone and blamed her for it, they should be the ones to pay for their own crime but, I am the one paying for it cause I’m the one in and out of hospital because of them the stress of what they did put blood clots on my lungs and my heartbeat has been slowed because of what they did to me

      Reply
  31. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Kenny J Strojny on

    I learned my ex girlfriend made a man end his life with a gun, the type of person she is that she thinks she can take things from you without knowing because the man is her boyfriend and if she has to give it back,your not a boyfriend to her and this is where the suicide of her ex boyfriend happened.

    Reply

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