Oct 05, 2010

Tyler Clementi's Suicide: Manslaughter Charges Are Not Warranted

Tyler Clementi's suicidal jump off the George Washington Bridge has been followed by cries for manslaughter charges against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, the two Rutgers students who allegedly used a webcam to broadcast Clementi having sex with another male.   

However, prosecutors can only file charges that they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In this situation, to justify involuntary manslaughter charges a prosecutor would have to believe that it can be proved that Ravi and Wei acted in reckless disregard of a substantial risk.  But while Ravi (Clementi's roommate who actually set up the webcam) and Wei may have been foolish and perhaps cruel, no evidence thus far suggests that they could have reasonably anticipated that Clementi would commit suicide.  So far as we know Clementi had never attempted suicide or even discussed suicide with the students. Indeed, there's some evidence that Clementi considered a variety of responses, including changing roommates, before committing suicide. His death is a tragedy, but it does not justify manslaughter charges.