Bill to criminalize encouraging suicide advances in Arkansas legislature

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A bill to create the offense of encouraging suicide is now moving to the Arkansas Senate. 

The House passed House Bill 1625 with bipartisan support. It would make encourage the suicide of another person a Class D felony. That’s punishable by up to six years in prison.

The bill’s sponsor, St. Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) says he started working on this proposal after reading about the suicide of an 18-year-old Massachusetts boy. His girlfriend repeatedly encouraged him to go through with a suicide attempt. She was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a highly publicized trial.

“She was urging him, ‘Tonight’s the night. You have to do it now. You can’t back out. Don’t worry about your family. I’ll make sure that they’re okay,'” Gazaway said.

During the debate over this measure, one lawmaker worried the bill would criminalize off-hand comments shouted during an argument. Representative Gazaway points out the bill dictates that the remarks have to be persistent.

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