Lawmakers Present ‘Conrad’s Law’ to Criminalize Suicide Coercion
BOSTON — As lawmakers introduced new legislation to criminalize suicide coercion in Massachusetts, a collection of local elected officials expressed their support for what’s known as “Conrad’s Law.”
Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) voiced his full support for new legislation to criminalize suicide coercion in Massachusetts. Montigny is the lead cosponsor of the bill filed this week by Senator Barry Finegold.
The bill, known as “Conrad’s Law”, is named after Conrad Henri Roy III, who died in July 2014 at age 18 from suicide at the direction of a fellow teenager, Michelle Carter. Following the high-profile court case, many called on the Massachusetts legislature to craft a narrowly tailored statute that would punish people for inducing suicide.
Massachusetts is one of just ten states across the country that does not have such a law.
Conrad’s mother, Lynn Roy, was involved with the creation of the bill and hopes that it will prevent future tragedies.
“‘Conrad’s Law’ has nothing to do with seeking justice for my son. This law has everything to do with preventing this from happening again to others who are struggling with mental illness and suicidal ideation. If this law is successful in saving one life, then all of this work will be clearly worth it,” said Roy.
“It is unacceptable that Massachusetts law remain ill-equipped to deal with these cases,” said Senator Montigny, lead cosponsor of the bill. “We must do better to protect these vulnerable, young lives especially when teen bullying and suicide rates continue to increase. If this legislation can prevent even just one tragedy and the pain and suffering that comes with it, then it is more than worth our best effort.”
The legislation was formally announced at a Wednesday press conference held at the State House. The bill imposes criminal liability on a person, who has actual knowledge of another person’s suicidal ideation, and either coerces or encourages the other person to commit suicide, or provides the physical means, or knowledge of such means, to do so. To be liable for coercing or encouraging suicide, a person must also have substantial control or undue influence over the victim, or must have manipulated the victim’s behavior through fraud or deceit.
Under the proposed law, a defendant can be convicted of suicide coercion if the defendant knows of another person’s propensity for suicidal ideation and either:
(1) (i) Exercise substantial control over the other person through control of the other person’s physical location or circumstances; deceptive or fraudulent manipulation of the other person’s fears, affections, or sympathies; or undue influence whereby the will of 1 person is substituted for the wishes of another;
(ii) intentionally coerces or encourages that person to commit or attempt to commit suicide; and
(iii) as a result of the coercion or encouragement, in whole or in part, that other person commits or attempts to commit suicide; or
(2) (i) Intentionally provides the physical means, or knowledge of such means, to the other person for the purpose of enabling that other person to commit or attempt to commit suicide and, as a result, the other person commits or attempts to commit suicide; or
(ii) participates in a physical act which causes, aids, encourages or assists the other person in committing or attempting to commit suicide.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III, whose office successfully prosecuted Michelle Carter on an indictment charging her with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the 2014 death of Conrad Roy in Fairhaven, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation.
“With suicide rates and bullying on the rise, it is imperative that we do all we can to protect our most vulnerable populations from those who would take advantage of someone in a state of mental or emotional distress. While the charge of involuntary manslaughter has been shown to fit in the most egregious of cases, it is important for Massachusetts to join with 40 others states across the country who have already passed suicide by coercion laws for those cases that do not rise to the level of manslaughter,” said DA Quinn.
“My office is keenly aware of the roller coaster of emotions the Roy family has gone through during the past five years. After losing their son forever, they soon learned from police and prosecutors that he was the victim of a crime and that his close friend had callously violated their trust. The family then had to sit through years of court proceedings, a widely publicized trial, the onslaught of media coverage and an appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court before finally getting the measure of justice they deserved. Throughout the entire process, Lynn Roy and the entire family presented themselves with grace and dignity. My office is proud to support Lynn Roy, Senators Finegold and Montigny, along with Rep. Higgins, in this critical legislative effort and I look forward to testifying on behalf of the bill when it gets its hearing.”
The legislation furthers the Commonwealth’s compelling interest in preventing suicide and is narrowly tailored to apply only to certain situations where specific conditions are met. Conrad’s Law would allow Massachusetts to join the ranks of other states in punishing people who induce others who they know to be prone to suicidal thoughts into acting on those impulses.
The bill must be formally admitted by the House and Senate before it is then assigned to a Joint Committee for a full hearing.