SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah judge was considering Wednesday whether an 18-year-old accused of filming the suicide of a high school classmate should stand trial on murder charges after prosecutors said he bought a rope and helped the girl tie a noose before she hanged herself.
Both sides gave their final arguments Tuesday in what prosecutors said is the first case in Utah in which someone is accused of aiding and recording a suicide. Judge James Brady is expected to rule in the coming days.
Defendant Tyerell Przybycien isn't accused of wielding a murder weapon, but prosecutors argued that he's still responsible for the death of a troubled girl whom he pushed into taking her own life.
"He had a fascination with death," prosecutor Chad Grundander said. "He used her suicidal ideations for his own purposes."
Defense attorneys countered that 16-year-old Jchandra Brown made her own choice on May 6 in a canyon about 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.
Przybycien's role wasn't commendable, but it didn't amount to murder either, his lawyer Gregory Stewart said.
"While we don't have all the video tapes we might like, I think it's clear that ... she was directly involved in the actions that caused her death," he said, according to the Daily Herald in Provo.
The Associated Press does not typically identify juveniles in crime cases, but Brown's mother has said she wanted her daughter to be identified to prevent anything similar from happening again.
Prosecutors say Przybycien bought the rope, helped the girl tie a noose and recorded a 10-minute cellphone video of her with the rope tied around her neck before she inhaled compressed air from a canister and fell unconscious.
The case carries echoes of Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman who encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages when she was a teenager. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The legal difference between murder and involuntary manslaughter is the defendant's mental state, Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, told the AP.
Murder is intentional, while manslaughter generally involves more reckless behavior such as drunken driving.
Przybycien "kind of set the wheels in motion, but there's a problem with causation because she made the ultimate decision to take her own life," Medwed said.
Prosecutors say Przybycien laid out his intentions in Facebook messages, where he told a friend that helping Brown kill herself would be "like getting away with murder!"
However, defense attorneys contend that he asked Brown several times if she truly wanted to go through with the suicide, and they pointed to notes where she said she made the decision herself.