SUICIDE is the death of a person caused by his own act, voluntary or invo luntary.
A rescript of Hadrian expressly di rected that those soldiers who, either from impatience of pain, from disgust of fife, from disease, from madness, from dread of infamy or disgrace, had wounded themselves or otherwise attempted to put a period to their existence, should only be punished with ignominia (Dig., 49, tit. 16, a. 6, De Re Militari '); but the attempt of a soldier at self-destruction on other grounds was a capital offence. Per sons who, being under prosecution for heinous offences, or being taken in the commission of a great crime, put an end to their existencefrom fear of punishment, forfeited all their property to the Fiscus, if the offence was such as would have been followed by confiscation if they had been convicted. (Dig., 48, tit. 21, s. 3.) Suicide was not uncommon among the Romans in the later republican period; and it became very common under the emperors, as we see from the examples in Tacitus and in the younger Pliny, who mentions the case of C,orellius Rufus (Ep., i. 12), Silius Italicus (iii. 7), Arria Oil. 16), and the woman (vi. 24) who succeeded in persuading her husband, who was labouring under an incurable disease, to throw himself, tied to her, into a lake. Except in the cases mentioned in the two titles of the Digest' above cited, suicide was not forbidden by the Roman law; nor was it discountenanced by public opinion. (Rein, Das .Romische Criminal recht, p. 883.) Voluntary suicide, by the law of Ens land, is a crime ; and every suicide is presumed to be voluntary until the con trary is made apparent. This crime is called self-murder and felonia de se (self felony), neither of which terms is calcu lated to convey a correct notion of the legal character of this offence, or of the mode in which it is punished.
A felo de se (self-felon) is a person who, being of years of discretion and in his senses, destroys his own life, either intending to do so, or intending to do some other act of a character both unlawful and malicious ; as if, in attempting to kill another, under circumstances which would have rendered such killing either mur der or manslaughter, a gun bursts in the assailant's own hand, or he runs upon a knife casually in the hand of the person whom he intended to kill. But in no
case is self-felony considered to be com mitted if death do not ensue within a year and a day of the blow or injury ; or, in other words, if a whole year intervene between the day on which the blow, &c., is given, and the day on which death lakes place.
The legal effect of a self-felony is a forfeiture to the crown of all the personal property which the party had at the time when he committed the act by which the death was caused, including debts due to him ; but though the crime is called fe lony, it was never attended with forfei ture of freehold, and never worked any corruption of blood. It appears, how ever, that formerly the crown was en titled to the year, day, and waste of the freehold lands of a self-felon. The fact that a self felony has been committed is ascertained by an inquest taken before the coroner or other officer who has au thority to hold inquests, upon view of the dead body. [ConoNEB.] When a self-felony is found by the in quisition, the jury ought also to inquire and find whether the party had any, and, if any, what goods and chattels at the time when the felony was committed.
The crown takes the property of the self-felon subject to no liability in respect of his debts or engagements. Upon a memorial presented to the treasury by a creditor of the deceased, a warrant under the sign-mannal is generally obtained, which authorises the ecclesiastical court to grant letters of administration to such creditor, who, upon such grant being made, acquires the ordinary rights, and becomes subject to the ordinary liabilities of a personal representative.