Monday, April 25, 2022

Colorado court: Defense of consent does not apply to man who killed his terminally ill wife.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Bruce Bagwell was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his terminally ill wife on February 6, 2019 in Colorado. Bagwell appealed his conviction by claiming a "defense of consent."

Last week, a three judge court of appeal panel decided that a "defense of consent" was not available to him because his act caused a serious injury (death) and his act was intentional. This is an interesting decision based on the fact that Colorado legalized assisted suicide in 2016.

According to the court decision:
In the hour after the shooting, Bagwell admitted to his wife’s father, his wife’s sister, and the arresting officers that he shot his wife because she asked him to do so to end her suffering. He told law enforcement that his wife had begged him to shoot her each of the preceding five days, and he explained that it was a “mercy killing.” In a videotaped interrogation, Bagwell again admitted to two detectives that he had killed his wife.
Bagwell was tried and convicted of first degree murder in October 2019 and appealed the decision by contending the trial court erred by denying him a defense of consent.

The court of appeal found that Bagwell cannot claim a defense of consent the injury was serious (caused death) and Bagwell clearly intended to cause death. 

An article by Michael Karlik published in The Gazette stated:
"An injury that causes a victim’s death is necessarily 'serious,'" wrote Judge W. Eric Kuhn in the panel's April 21 opinion, "because it involves a permanent and dangerous impairment of the victim’s physical condition. The consent defense is not available, then, when a defendant intentionally kills a victim who consents to her own death."
When reading the court decision, the court of appeal did not find signs of pressure from the police, Bagwell freely confessed to the crime.

Considering the nature of the act, the use of the defense of consent should also apply to euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

The euthanasia lobby argues that they are carrying out the wishes of a person who has asked to die. The act of euthanasia, which is usually done by lethal injection, intentionally causes the death of the person. Whether a person has requested it or not, precedent should apply to the act, that being, there is no defense to consent when intentionally killing another person.

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