Jun 17, 2017

Guilty verdict in text-assisted suicide sets a new precedent

John Wilcox / AP

Two Massachusetts teenagers were texting when one of them expressed his willingness to take his own life. And when Conrad Roy III called his girlfriend Michelle Carter, now 20, right before he did, she encouraged him to go through with it. Subsequent text messages from Carter revealed she didn't tell him not to do it, nor did she contact anyone else — including his parents. Carter was convicted with involuntary manslaughter yesterday for her cell phone communications with her friend, per NYT, and it set a legal precedent.

Why it matters: This manslaughter charge, brought upon someone who wasn't physically there when another took his life, raises the question of whether words or social media comments can be grounds for murder convictions moving forward.

What they're saying: "Will the next case be a Facebook posting in which someone is encouraged to commit a crime?" Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge and Harvard Law professor, told NYT.

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Obama praises young protesters, urges mayors to pursue police reforms

Former President Barack Obama called on all mayors to review their use-of-force policies and commit to policing reform in a virtual town hall Wednesday hosted by the Obama Foundation's My Brothers Keepers Alliance.

Why it matters: Obama has addressed the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed on social media and in a Medium post, but this was his first time speaking about the past week's events on camera. His voice will add weight to the growing pressure on local, state and federal officials to pursue policing reforms.

James Mattis condemns Trump as a threat to the Constitution

Mattis on Fox in Septemnber 2019 in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis condemned President Trump for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in a statement to The Atlantic on Wednesday, saying he was "appalled" at the president's response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

Why it matters: Trump’s former defense secretary had refrained from publicly criticizing his former boss since resigning in 2018.

American society is teetering on the edge

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic, record unemployment and escalating social unrest are all pushing American society close to the breaking point.

The big picture: Civilizations don't last forever, and when they collapse, the cause is almost always internal failure. Even in the midst of one of our darkest years, the U.S. still has many factors in its favor, but the fate of past societies holds frightening lessons for what may lie ahead.