Suzy’s Law

posted at 6:35 pm on October 10, 2007 by see-dubya

What kind of ghoulish people stand around and yell for a man on a window ledge to “jump”? Well, the same sort of people who coached a suicidal nineteen-year-old into taking her own life in 2003.

Except those people did more than yell one word. They talked her into it, and through it, over a period of months. They even gave her advice on the logistics of poisoning herself.

These people never shouted anything, but they sent it to Suzanne over the internet, through a usenet group called alt.suicide.holiday.

If Suzanne Gonzales had been my daughter, my first impulse would be to respond to this den of online nihilist monsters with a private detective, a shotgun, and some Hefty bags. But Suzanne Gonzales’ parents have cooler heads, and a better plan.

Together with my friend Jeff Harrell (who blogs here), they’re lobbying for H.R. 940: the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007. The law makes it a crime to use the internet (or “interstate commerce”) to teach someone who is thinking of committing suicide to commit suicide. The text of the bill is here, and it seems narrowly drafted enough that it won’t criminalize any speech except the sort of incitement-plus-information that helped kill Suzanne Gonzales. Already the bill has bipartisan sponsorship; but even well-intended bills often fall through the cracks without some momentum behind them.

I’m not endorsing the bill, but I do encourage you take a look at the site and blog Jeff’s put together and give it some serious thought. It is a restriction on speech, and therefore not to be taken lightly, but it seems a reasonable one.

Exit question: won’t this be more grounds to stop someone encouraging and supporting suicide bombers over Al-Qaeda’s usenet groups? An extra five years–or life if they go through with it–might make chickenhawk jihadis and Islamofascist imams think twice before hitting “post”.


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Isn’t suicide illegal?

If it isn’t, then the solution is simple: Make it illegal. Then the First doesn’t apply anymore, since any encouragement/aid automatically becomes conspiracy to commit a crime, just as somebody encouraging somebody to rob a bank or kill somebody isn’t “protected speech.”

That would put the lid on monsters like the ones in alt.suicide.holiday while simultaneously avoiding any slippery slope vis-a-vis the First Amendment.

Misha I on October 10, 2007 at 6:53 PM

I don’t necessarily consider suicide the same as murder, but I do consider being an accomplice to suicide the same as being an accomplice to murder.

Lock.Them.Up.

Editor on October 10, 2007 at 6:55 PM

I don’t think you should imprison people for being jerks. She wanted to do it. She did it. Yes, the people who encouraged it are wrong; but seriously should they be locked up for it?

As a federal crime? No way.

lorien1973 on October 10, 2007 at 7:00 PM

You’ll never pass a federal law criminalizing suicide, Misha.

But interstate commerce that encourages and trains vulnerable people to commit suicide? That’s fair game.

see-dubya on October 10, 2007 at 7:03 PM

If Suzanne Gonzales had been my daughter, my first impulse would be to respond to this den of online nihilist monsters with a private detective, a shotgun, and some Hefty bags.

Abso-farging-lutly. This is the kind of thing that can utterly erase the thin line of civilization. I know it would be wrong, but I can’t imagine reacting any other way.

peski on October 10, 2007 at 7:08 PM

… and I don’t believe suicide should be made illegal.

peski on October 10, 2007 at 7:14 PM

You’ll never pass a federal law criminalizing suicide, Misha.

Just an idea, but you’re probably right. If there’s a simple solution to a problem, you can bet your last dollar that DC will studiously avoid it :-)

But interstate commerce that encourages and trains vulnerable people to commit suicide? That’s fair game.

No doubt a clever little maneuver, but I’m getting increasingly sick and tired of how the Fed is abusing the interstate commerce clause to get their fat, incumbent, tyrannical fingers into everything under the sun, so I don’t like to see the practice encouraged, even when I fully agree with the ends, as I most certainly do in this case.

There’s one thing I don’t understand, however, and that’s why there’s a need for legislation in the first place. I mean, obviously there IS a need, as this tragic case and the mere existence of alt.suicide.holiday proves, but why? Isn’t hurting somebody already a crime? Then why is making somebody hurt themselves by exploiting their psychological issues NOT a crime?

Oh well, See-Dub, I liked your first suggestion better anyways :-)

Misha I on October 10, 2007 at 7:22 PM

I see absolutely no reason for this pathetic excuse for a bill. Any person who commits suicide after talking about for a few months on alt.suicide.holiday is pretty obviously someone who would have committed suicide anyway. I question the whole disgusting fascist value system on which this proposed laws is based, and I’m happy it will never pass First Amendment muster.

And why are wasting our time talking about this junk?

thuja on October 10, 2007 at 7:24 PM

You’ll never pass a federal law criminalizing suicide,

Interesting point, See-Dubya. There’d be far reaching ramifications if it were illegal, particularly regarding life insurance settlements.

Many policies will pay (after a substantial waiting period) even if the policy holder “offs” himself. However, almost all will refuse to pay if the policy holder died during the commission of a crime.

BacaDog on October 10, 2007 at 7:26 PM

if it was a crime, the punishment for those who aid in the commision of the crime maybe will be different…

Ropera on October 10, 2007 at 7:39 PM

The dead know only one thing…it is better to be alive.

Asher on October 10, 2007 at 8:08 PM

She’s a dead ringer for Ugly Betty.

What a sad story.

Kini on October 10, 2007 at 8:15 PM

The dead know only one thing…it is better to be alive.

Asher on October 10, 2007 at 8:08 PM

Full Metal Jacket. Nice touch.

thejackal on October 10, 2007 at 8:32 PM

The way to combat these idiots is to go on line and constantly write positive things. Unless they blackball you, you can write all you want.
A campaign to flood the site with positive statements will topple it.
They rely on intimidation, and when they find they can’t intimidate, like any bully, they move on.

right2bright on October 10, 2007 at 9:15 PM

The way to combat these idiots is to go on line and constantly write positive things. Unless they blackball you, you can write all you want.
A campaign to flood the site with positive statements will topple it.

You are, of course, absolutely right. Nothing kills a newsfroup quicker than a good ol’ fashioned invasion coupled with a bit of Usenet Performance Art.

Splendid idea.

Meow.

Misha I on October 10, 2007 at 9:26 PM

It sounds like a sad story and all, but I don’t like squelching any speech on the internet. Next thing you know flame wars will be outlawed because someone wishes a troll would stick their head in an oven.

Too bad for the victim, but honestly, does anyone really think she would have never figured out how to kill herself had it not been for the internet? So she became “an hero.” I am somehow emotionally unaffected.

BelchSpeak on October 10, 2007 at 9:33 PM

I’m just worried about this becoming another “Violence against Women’s Act” because I very much doubt how suicide has an effect on Interstate Commerce. I think its a nobel idea but couch it in some other term. Using Interstate Commerce I doubt will work.

Defector01 on October 10, 2007 at 9:48 PM

Misha I on October 10, 2007 at 6:53 PM

Make suicide illegal? You’re dead. What can they do to you?

boomer on October 10, 2007 at 10:12 PM

I don’t think you should imprison people for being jerks. She wanted to do it. She did it. Yes, the people who encouraged it are wrong; but seriously should they be locked up for it?

As a federal crime? No way.

lorien1973 on October 10, 2007 at 7:00 PM

Except for:

1. Being suicidal is a form of mental illness.
2. Talking someone into a crime is in itself illegal. Then compound that with the fact that the person was metally ill.
3. When a crime crosses state lines, it makes it federal.

- The Cat

MirCat on October 10, 2007 at 10:27 PM

Attempted suicide puts you in the psych ward. You don’t get out unless a doctor decides you won’t do it again. It’s already illegal to attempt suicide.

It’s also illegal for someone to help you, ergo; Kervorkian’s imprisonment.

I’d say these people should be charged with conspiracy of some sort, if you can prove they pushed her into it. But that’s the tough part.

You can’t stop kids from being stupid. And if a person is determined to commit suicide, you can’t stop them, either. It’s really only a short step from thinking about it to doing it. When you are that deeply depressed, the step seems to be the only way out.

A sad, sad story.

Meryl Yourish on October 10, 2007 at 10:56 PM

Well, suicide used to be illegal in most US states. By 1990, the last two states took it off the books because the cops never laid charges in failed attempts. But it can certainly go back on. While you can not punish someone for successfully committing suicide, you certainly can punish someone for attempting it.

The fact is that society does not recognize someone’s right to commit suicide. Anyone attempting it will be intercepted by the police if the authorities have the opportunity. If it was a right, the police would have no right to intervene in suicide attempts. The problem is that the police never had the nerve to charge attempted suicides with attempted suicide when the laws were on the books.

Suicide is usually not a manifestation of mental illness, anymore than sadness is mental illness. A broken spirit is not a disease. When you stand at the top of a building and think you can fly and jump off, that’s mental illness. When you know you will not fly and you jump off, that is just giving up.

jihadwatcher on October 10, 2007 at 10:57 PM

Prediction: if the law passes, Code Pink and the like will attempt to use it to prosecute military recruiters.

Hannibal Smith on October 10, 2007 at 11:49 PM

The dead know only one thing…it is better to be alive. Asher on October 10, 2007 at 8:08 PM Full Metal Jacket

…to die is gain.

Paul of Tarsus

Mojave Mark on October 11, 2007 at 12:39 AM

With the RIAA standing to make millions by preventing music downloads, and failing miserably at it, I can’t see this law as making any difference. It will just drive it to places less visible, where it is less likely that a decent person will call out some sicko trying to encourage someone to go through with it.

pedestrian on October 11, 2007 at 12:58 AM

Suicide is one of the most fundamental rights a person can have. It is the ultimate right of control over your body. For the government to deny the exercise of this right is to state that people should not be in control of their own selves.

“Just as I shall select my ship when I am about to go on a voyage, or my house when I propose to take a residence, so I shall choose my death when I am about to depart from life.”
–Seneca the Younger

Nonfactor on October 11, 2007 at 1:14 AM

…to die is gain.

Paul of Tarsus

Mojave Mark on October 11, 2007 at 12:39 AM

You’re really not helping to refute the accusation that Christianity is nihilist.

Kralizec on October 11, 2007 at 1:16 AM

Suicide…is the ultimate right of control over your body.

Nonfactor on October 11, 2007 at 1:14 AM

Full control over one’s body is to do exactly whatever is best in one’s own estimation. Thanks for telling us we have a right to control our body, but know that if I ever assume full control over my body and killing is involved, I won’t be killing myself. It needs to be said that I won’t be killing you, either. This is written to inform you again what a trifler you are.

Kralizec on October 11, 2007 at 1:43 AM

Full control over one’s body is to do exactly whatever is best in one’s own estimation.

No, full control means full control, whether we’re doing what we perceive to be good or bad.

This is written to inform you again what a trifler you are.

Kralizec on October 11, 2007 at 1:43 AM

So in essence your post was to tell me what you think I meant to say and then to insult me. Great.

Nonfactor on October 11, 2007 at 1:54 AM

Ummm… if suicide is NOT illegal there…

How can you use prior restraint on those who wish to speak about a legal act?

Sad, but sometimes you have to take the bad speech, with the good…

Romeo13 on October 11, 2007 at 2:15 AM

This shouldn’t be passed, no matter how well intentioned. First amendment is first amendment.
Pass this and opposition to the Fairness Doctrine loses all credibility.

Bradky on October 11, 2007 at 7:12 AM

>…to die is gain.

Paul of Tarsus

Mojave Mark on October 11, 2007 at 12:39 AM

You’re really not helping to refute the accusation that Christianity is nihilist.

Kralizec on October 11, 2007 at 1:16 AM

It’s all about context. In this passage Paul is not advocating suicide. Off the top of my head I believe that is Phillipians 4:13. I could be wrong though, 6 am is a little early for me to be thinking.

jihadwatcher on October 10, 2007 at 10:57 PM

I do know of one case in which the person was charged. It was in Kansas. She was commited for a short time and had to pay a fine for trying to kill herself.

boomer on October 11, 2007 at 8:01 AM

Suicide is usually not a manifestation of mental illness, anymore than sadness is mental illness. A broken spirit is not a disease. … When you know you will not fly and you jump off, that is just giving up. jihadwatcher on October 10, 2007 at 10:57 PM

What about people with depression?

bookwurm322 on October 11, 2007 at 9:32 AM

SOmething has to be said about first impulses.

Sensei Ern on October 11, 2007 at 10:43 AM

Exit question: won’t this be more grounds to stop someone encouraging and supporting suicide bombers over Al-Qaeda’s usenet groups? An extra five years–or life if they go through with it–might make chickenhawk jihadis and Islamofascist imams think twice before hitting “post”.

Critical error: You are assuming laws could be enforced on these people. One call to CAIR, and no go, bro.

MadisonConservative on October 11, 2007 at 11:01 AM