N.J. high court: Not helping isn’t manslaughter

The Philadelphia Inquirer has this article today, about a New Jersey man who played video games while a 17-year old girl lay on his bed unconscious for 12 hours, and later died of a drug overdose. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s dismissal of a reckless manslaughter charge against Michael Lisa, the man who supplied the drugs and never attempted to help the girl.

Lisa was indicted in 2005 in connection with the death of a 17-year-old girl, identified as A.R. in court papers, who came to his Howell Township home with friends early the morning of Oct. 19, 2003. Lisa, who was 19, still faces a charge of aggravated sexual assault and drug charges stemming from the encounter. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The high court found that the prosecutor’s instructions to the grand jury were flawed because they introduced the concept of a duty to another. In an unsigned opinion, the court majority determined the case can be presented again “based on the totality of the defendant’s conduct.”

In dissent, Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto said the reckless manslaughter charge should be reinstated. He endorsed the finding of an appellate judge who noted that it would have been reasonable for Lisa to call for medical attention when the girl fell unconscious after using drugs he provided.

Instead, Lisa called a friend to his room about 5 a.m. and said the girl passed out after they had sex. When she remained unresponsive after being shaken and slapped, the friend suggested calling 911, but Lisa refused, according to the appellate ruling.

Lisa and the friend fell asleep on the bed – with the girl between them – for about seven hours until about 12:30 p.m. The girl was still unresponsive. Lisa purchased ammonia, which did not revive her. He called a nurse, but ignored her advice to call 911, the appellate ruling said. Instead, he and his friend stayed in the room, watching football and playing video games, propping the girl up when she slumped over to help her breathe … aid was finally summoned about 5 p.m.

A medical examiner determined that her chances of survival would have increased if she had gotten medical attention when she first lost consciousness.