Recently, a famous actor, Jim Carrey has been involved in a civil lawsuit over the death of his former girlfriend, Catrhiona White. This is an unusual lawsuit and more of a unique situation, however. This is because Ms. White had committed suicide. Ms. White’s death was caused from which was ruled as an intentional overdose of prescription drugs. The drugs were Percocet, Ambien, and Propranolol. It is also noted that Ms. White was prone to having severe depression. The people bringing lawsuit are Ms. White’s mother and her former husband. They allege in their complaint, against Mr. Carry, that he provided Ms. White with the drugs that she would later overdose on.
Mr. Carry claims that he is torn up about what has happened to his former girlfriend, Ms. White, but he will not lay down and give into these claims and a that a man needs to stand up for some things, and this is one of them. Mr. Carrey has moved to have this lawsuit thrown based on its merits in a Los Angeles court, the motion was denied and as of now, the trial date is set for some time next year.
Ms. White’s mother and former husband are claiming wrongful death, and are also seeking damages from Mr. Carrey in violation of the drug dealer liability act.
We are going to look at if Mr. Carry could possibly have any criminal charges brought against him for the suicide of his former girlfriend. What crimes could he be guilty of? We will look at murder, the most serious crime. In addition, we will look to involuntary manslaughter, which is still pretty serious but not on the same level as murder. Lastly, we will look at the crime of aiding, advising or encouraging a suicide. Therefore, we will look at the crimes that one can possibly be liable for in relation to a suicide.
The first crime we will look at as a possible charge for Mr. Carry in relation to Ms. Whites suicide would be murder. In California, Penal Code 187 (a) PC, the law defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.” This rule seems pretty simple, which it is for the most part. The unlawful killing of a human being. This means that the killing could not be in self-defense, which would be lawful. Or another example would be a police officer killing another who was going to use deadly force against another. These are lawful. Though Mr. Carry did not technical kill Ms. White, because it was a suicide we can act as if it was found that Mr. Carry, because of his actions, killed Ms. White. If this did occur it would not be lawful because he was not in danger or any weird situation like that. Also, it has to be another human being. Because Ms. White is another human this is obviously meant.
The more difficult analysis of this crime involves the tail end of the murder statute, malice aforethought. This is what is known as the proper mental state required to be guilty of this crime. Malice aforethought is complicated to define first case law states that "the mental state constituting malice aforethought does not presuppose or require any ill will or hatred of the particular victim. When a defendant 'with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death,' he acts with malice aforethought.” People v. Summers (1983) 147 Cal.App.3d 180, 184. This is also added with the explanation of that there expressed malice through actions. Express malice means that you specifically intend to kill the victim. Malice is implied when: (a) The killing resulted from an intentional act; (b) The natural consequences of the act are dangerous to human life; and (c) The act was deliberately performed with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life. CALJIC 8.11. This is what would be extremely difficult to prove that Mr. Carry had while this suicide occurred. There most certainly would not be expressed malice, this is because handing Ms. White prescription pills is not comparable to shooting a person in the head or the chest. Where death is basically a guarantee. In addition, we would have to see if Mr. Carrey’s action were those that were indifferent of human life. It would seem as if it was not. Because Mr. Carrey could make the argument that Ms. White needed the medication to help sleep or help with her other illnesses. Essentially that Mr. Carrey wanted nothing like this to happen, and it was not a given that death would result from his actions. Thus, murder would not be applicable in this suicide case or a situation that is like this.
The next criminal charge we will look into as a possibility will be involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter in California is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds: (b) Involuntary--in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. California Penal Code 192. Case law furthers the concept of involuntary manslaughter by stating that, “We agree that the only logically permissible construction of section 192 is that an unintentional homicide committed in the course of a noninherently dangerous felony may properly support a conviction of involuntary manslaughter, if that felony is committed without due caution and circumspection. People v. Burroughs (1984) 35 Cal.3d 824, 835. As discussed above, there was a death of another, which is Ms. White. This crime is closer to the Mr. Carrey situation, because it takes out the need of the mental state that murder requires. Since this is involuntary the death can be unintentional. The part that we have to look at is whether Mr. Carrey acted without due caution when he allegedly gave Ms. White the prescription drugs. This is a question that a jury would decide and seems like it could go either way. Mr. Carrey could argue that it is no way foreseeable that Ms. White would kill herself, moreover that there is no way to tell if she acted with intent to kill herself that she the death was an accident of overdose, though this would be hard to argue. The State would probably say Mr. carry was are of her problems with depression and gave her drugs was negligent, which means that Mr. Carrey should have known of this risk. This seems like a stretch but could be possible. Michelle Carter was recently convicted of manslaughter for a text she sent to a boy which lead him to kill himself, so it is within the realm of possibilities that one can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter with a suicide. In addition, Mr. Carrey did commit a felony by giving Ms. White the prescription drugs. This would be the distribution of drugs, even though they were Mr. Carrey’s he could not legally give them to others, like Ms. White. However, this is not an inherently dangerous felony as the statute refers to. Inherently dangerous refers to robbery, rape, arson and crimes more so in that category.
We would have to also look at if Mr. Carry caused the death. We can see that but for him giving her the prescription drugs she would still be alive. But there is a flaw in the foreseeability aspect of this causation. It is hard to foresee that one would commit suicide off of prescription pills, but we do not have all of the facts and circumstances, so there may be an argument that it was foreseeable. Moreover, there was an intervening human action, Ms. White. There would have to be an analysis on foreseeability once more in her actions. Thus, this would likely fail on the question of whether Mr. Carrey caused Ms. White’s death.
Thus, it does not seem likely that Mr. Carrey could be convicted for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Ms. White, but it is possible.
The Last crime we will analyze is aiding, advising, encouraging a suicide. Case law has said that in order to obtain a conviction for aiding, advising or encouraging a suicide, it is necessary to establish all of the following essential elements: (1) the defendant specifically intended the victim's suicide; (2) the defendant undertook some active and direct participation in bringing about the suicide, such as by furnishing the victim with the means of suicide; and, finally, (3) the victim actually committed a specific, overt act of suicide. In re Ryan N., 112 Cal. Rptr. 2d 620 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2001). This crime also circles around to the intent element that we are unsure that Mr. Carrey had. For one to be guilty they had to specifically intend for the other to commit suicide. It does not seem as if Mr. Carrey did have this intent. He says that he loved Ms. White. In addition, there are no facts that show Mr. Carrey had anything to gain from Ms. White’s death. Also, we do not know if Mr. Carrey said to take a certain amount of pills in order to achieve suicide. In regard to the second element, I think we can see that Mr. Carrey fulfilled that because he furnished Ms. White with the means of suicide by giving her the prescription drugs. The last element would be meant because Ms. White was successful in killing herself.
Therefore, it does not seem as if Mr. Carrey is guilty of any of these major crimes.
If you have any questions about the criminal process, feel free to contact San Diego Criminal Lawyer Vik Monder at 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney