This is an incredibly tough case, and I want to acknowledge that first. My intuition is that the husband ought to be found guilty of murder. I don't doubt that his intentions may have been good (as he believed them to be), but I have serious concerns about the wife's agency in this decision (despite a comment from years ago). I think that a case like this is an ideal candidate for mitigation. While the husband is guilty, and I think the law ought to intervene, I would hope that jurors do not give him death and that a sentencing body take into account the difficult nature of the circumstance.
There laws against murder. This was murder. Is there a justification for "assisted suicide"? Not in most jurisdictions where it is illegal. If the jury finds him guilty they will have had the legal basis to do so. Capial punichment though maybe not...
This is an extremely difficult case. In general, I believe that assisted suicide should be legal under certain circumstances, and would not find a defendant who acts to end the life of a consenting terminally ill person. However, here it is not clear that the deceased made sufficiently explicit her desire to be killed. While she seems to have expressed this desire to a friend, this claim is difficult to prove. From an administrability standpoint, it seems potentially dangerous to allow individuals to kill each other based on discussions that occurred months ago.
The husband's actions purposely led to the death of his wife, but there remains a question as to whether he should be tried for 1st degree murder, especially since a potential consequence could be the death penalty. Since the husband repeatedly said that he would inject himself though, one could wonder how the optics of giving such an individual the death penalty would differ from a situation in which someone had not expressed a willingness to die. As a point of principle, an important concept to examine is whether or not an individual should be punished by a court for assisting their spouse in dying, if their spouse has requested such actions in the past in the event that they have dementia, and they currently have dementia.
I have a few questions about the case:
1) Is euthanasia/assisted suicide legal in the state where this occurred?
2) What was Davis’ stated motivation for doing this? Was it purely out of mercy for Dorothy?
Regardless of how those two questions are answered, however, I think I would still convict Davis of murder. There’s still too much ambiguity here for me about what Dorothy would’ve wanted and I wouldn’t want to set this precedent.
This is a very difficult situation, it is very sad that this happens in the world. It is terrible to see people live with illnesses like dementia. Assisted suicide (like this seems to be), is not a solution to the terror of the illness. Human life is intrinsically valuable - even if the life is not valued by it's owner, or by an economic society. A life that cannot make contracts/do things is still a life. The inability to find economic value in a life should not be cause to question or eliminate the intrinsic value of the life.
I would not find him guilty of first degree murder, but some lesser homicide instead. There is no belief that Davis will kill anyone or commit any other crime again. He should not be punished by death, as this is simply not the same depraved thinking that we associate with "intentional murder." However, he made a miscalculation that should be punished and certainly broke many laws. His wife did not assent to this killing, and I oppose assisted suicide even if she had (and this is not the form that assisted suicide would take). But given davis' age, I would hope he does not even spend the rest of his life in prison. This is really a question about life and ethics, and dorothy's life was solely taken because perhaps it was effectively over. That choice, though wrong, should not cause the end of Royce's life as well, be it via death penalty, or an extremely long sentence.
I think the question is whether euthanasia is acceptable here (or ever). Dorothy wanted to die in the condition she was before the injection, and her friend corroborates this fact. is not being able to carry out daily tasks a good enough reason?
My initial thought is that Davis is not guilty. As we discussed last week, guilt could mean more than just fulfilling certain elements of a crime; it could also mean some moral failing that we want to reprimand. Here, it could be argued that Davis had no such moral failing. Though he did intend to kill his wife, his intentions appeared to come from a place of love rather than malice. However, the fact that he called the police and turned himself in could signify that he finds himself guilty. Where do we draw the line between guilt in feelings and guilt in the law?
I found myself torn about the jury discussion prompt. On the one hand, it’s clear why Mr. Davis did what he did. It must be utter agony to watch a loved one suffer in a way that you know they would not have wanted. On the other hand, I think allowing spousal mercy killings is a slippery slope — especially in a case like this where the evidence of Mrs. Davis’s preference is fairly old. In an ideal world, I would try to split the difference here and prosecute Mr. Davis for a lesser crime — perhaps first or second degree manslaughter — classifying his desire to end his wife’s suffering as a mitigating factor. However, as a juror in a case where he is already being tried for first degree murder, I might have to vote for a guilty verdict. He obviously satisfied the elements of the crime, and I fear that nullification in this case send a problematic message about spousal homicide in ambiguous situations.
Euthanasia should be legal and allow for the families to best decide what is best for them. Not everyone has the financial means to continue to provide such support. If people really have qualms with this, we should create a universal healthcare system that can allow for these people to continue in such a state
Off the bat, I like Polaris' suggestion of mitigating the charge from first degree murder to some lesser category of homicide. This seems like a worthy compromise between punishing a clearly unlawful act, and respecting the very real societal interest in permitting individuals to make their own end of life decisions.
I personally think that Davis is not guilty but this is based on personal experiences. In my family, the topic of Alzheimer and dementia are very personal. I have had family members who have had them, and I have seen them suffer into the very last day (to the point that one of them forgot to even swallow and had to be hospitalized). Because this is so personal to my family, I have had this discussion with my family about what we should do if someone would ever to be diagnosed with this type of illness. My grandmother has been adamant that she would never like to be properly diagnosed and would prefer to be ignorant of it all. My mother has told me that she would rather die quickly than to live that way, and she would never want to live in a group home. This case is personal to anyone who has ever had to see someone suffer in this kind of way, so I struggle with this case.
While I think it would also be great to involve physicians/experts, if assisted suicide was not legal, then they might intervene in a way that would prevent the assistance from happening. I think legalizing it and regulating it would be the way to go here.
As I think about it more, I think I've moved myself over to the not guilty camp. The defendant is clearly guilty of some form of homicide, but clearly in this case it should be some lesser offense, like manslaughter. The prosecutor is being over zealous here. If he/she wants a conviction, she should charge with the right crime.
(I'm Tatooine) — I misunderstood the facts earlier, so I'd like to rescind my statement! He had good intentions, but iI don't think it was justified after realizing that the wife's statements were not clear enough. So I would follow in Jupiter's footsteps and find him guilty of manslaughter or the like.