Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Define "Aid"?

According to this NY Times article (reg. required; username-randommentality, password-password), prosecutors are trying a novel approach in a death case:
It looked like an ordinary family outing. A minivan stopped at a scenic overlook, a strip of blacktopped pavement that is little more than a wide spot on a one-lane road along the edge of a cliff. In the distance is the Hudson River. A hundred feet below is a forest as thick as when the Harriman family owned it a century ago.

The police say three things happened next. A man stepped out of the minivan, maybe to take a picture. His wife, inside with their two young daughters, put the transmission in gear. And the minivan drove off the cliff.

The woman, Hejin Han, 35, was killed on Wednesday as the minivan bounced down the rocky hillside in Bear Mountain State Park, about 50 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, and slammed into a tree. The two daughters, strapped into their car seats in the back, were not seriously injured.

Yesterday, the man who climbed out of the van before its plunge — Victor K. Han, 35, an architect from Staten Island — was charged with promoting a suicide attempt. The police maintain that Mr. Han knew that his wife was suicidal and "afforded her an opportunity" to kill herself.

By extrapolation, would he have been charged with the same thing if he'd gone to work and left her alone in their home, if she'd taken the opportunity to OD on Tylenol? The details are sketchy, so we've no clue what was said between the couple just prior to the incident. Obviously, if he was telling her precisely how to steer the van between the guardrails, or doing some weird frat-like chant of support (go, go, go), then the case may be more compelling. Absent that, I'm not sure how getting out of the van constituted actual "aid." Presuming the prosecution can show he was aware of her suicidal tendencies, at what point does inaction rise to the level of "aiding" her? And what is the State going to do with the fact the kids were in the car? Are they maintaining he wanted her to kill them as well? Or that he had an unusual level of faith in carseat safety?

A tragedy all around. At least the kids aren't seriously hurt.

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