A recent criminal case in Massachusetts has paved the way for legislation to expand Missouri’s definition of manslaughter.
Under the bill, involuntary manslaughter would include instances where bullying incites an individual to commit suicide. A senate committee held a public hearing on the bill Monday morning.
The introduction of this bill comes after the case of Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts teenager who convinced her boyfriend through text messages to commit suicide.
According to Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, it was this case that brought this issue to her attention. Nasheed, the bill’s sponsor, stated that cyberbullying and suicide are a growing issue within the atmosphere of social media and that Missouri doesn’t offer any protections.
“Missouri does not provide any legal opportunities for victims of cyberbullying, and those who are harassed, who commit suicide,” Nasheed said.
While the Carter case may have brought the issue to Nasheed’s attention, she also brought up a recent case in Missouri where teenager Kenny Suttner committed suicide after alleged harassment from his boss. The boss was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but the charges were eventually dropped.
Attorney April Wilson, the special prosecutor in the Suttner case, spoke in support of the bill and hopes that it conveys to teenagers that this issue is serious.
“The generation that is going to be our leaders in the future, look at this as a joke, as a punchline and so I think that those acts are going to become more overt the longer we go without efforts to prevent,” Wilson said.
The wording of the bill was called into question by multiple senators on the committee, with many wanting a clearer definition on what “knowingly incites” means and what specific actions could cause a conviction.