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Name: People v. Lam
Case #: B212994
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 05/10/2010

An instruction on aiding and abetting suicide is not applicable where the defendant actively participates in the final act causing death. Appellant stole money from his wife to pay a gambling debt. He strangled his wife while drunk and distraught, but was unsuccessful in killing himself. Appellant claimed they made a mutual suicide pact, but he survived. On appeal from his murder conviction, appellant argued his attorney was ineffective for failing to request a jury instruction on aiding and abetting a suicide as a lesser related offense to the murder. The court held that, even if it accepted the claim there was a mutual suicide pact, the instruction would not have applied. The critical question is whether the defendant has an active or passive role in the suicide. If he merely furnishes the means, then he aids a suicide. But if he actively participates in the death, then it is murder. Here, appellant pulled the necktie that caused the strangulation. Further, the single-instrumentality exception established in In re Joseph G. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 429, does not apply. While the pact allegedly involved simultaneous necktie strangulation, two ties were used, one for each neck.