one more suicide...
April 19, 2006 6:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I get ahold of a suicide note?

A very good friend of mine killed himself last July. His mother held on to the multi-page suicide note and moved away to Ohio. His brother and I have been wanting to read it, as appearently it makes direct reference to both of us, but she's been elusive about the note. Being that the police definately did investigate this suicide, is there any way to get a copy of the note as part of some sort of public record request?
posted by trinarian to Law & Government (16 answers total)
It's not a public record. So I don't see why the mother would be compelled to give it up.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:07 AM on April 19, 2006

Oh, I read that as, "the police did NOT investigate the suicide."

Still, I don't think evidence in a case is necessarily considered public record.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:08 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: he did it in a car in a parking lot... so it wasn't like she collected up the note. it was handed to her by the police department after the investigation was concluded.... which means they likely have a copy somewhere for liability reasons. if reporters can get crime scene photos post hoc, shouldn't friends and relatives be afforded access?

i can also demonstrably prove we were roommates for two years..
posted by trinarian at 7:23 AM on April 19, 2006

No idea, but here's the Florida public records law.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:24 AM on April 19, 2006

You appear to be in Florida. Florida has excellent public records laws. Read up on them, and send in your request to the police. They may or may not have what you're looking for; they may or may not refuse to give it to you; you won't know unless you try.

(Your status as a friend doesn't make any difference.)
posted by jellicle at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2006

If the note isn't in the public record, then you would have to contact the mother.

It might help to explain to her that you are looking for some closure on her son's death and that reading his note might lead you to understand more why he did it. Just saying you "want to read it" is likely to make her close up even more.
posted by essexjan at 7:36 AM on April 19, 2006

I can't comment as to law and kind of agree with essexjan but I suppose that the brother would be in the most likely position to exert some 'pressure'.

The names of the attending officers ought to be on public record. Possibly the brother could contact them directly, prove who he is and they might tell him what they recall (in the event that a request for a copy of the note etc is turned down).
posted by peacay at 8:04 AM on April 19, 2006

My mother committed suicide almost 14 yrs ago, and even though this isn't directly answering your question maybe it will help. One of the things survivors of suicide have to come to terms with are all the loose ends. Suicide is not a rational act so it's not like I will ever understand why - there is no rational answer to why. That itch will be forever unscratched. It took a lot of therapy to fully get the fact that I will always have that hole in my understanding.

I completely understand why you want to read the note, and hope you're able to get it. But just bear in mind that it may raise more questions than it answers. And that's just part of what it means to have someone close to you commit suicide. Survivors of the suicide have the legacy of loose ends - all the stuff left unsaid, the unfinished arguments, the what-ifs.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Too much talk of laws, pressure, and documentation. Find out who handled your friend's case and schedule an appointment. Sit down, face to face. Cops are people, and if you explain why you're asking then he'll want to help. Sure, bring along your "documentation" — not because it would convince any cop to do something he didn't want to, but because it might let him feel better about bending a rule if he needs to, to help you.

However, you should know that...

they likely have a copy somewhere for liability reasons.

...isn't necessarily true.
posted by cribcage at 8:50 AM on April 19, 2006

A suicide note definitely doesn't count as a public record. However, depending on who specifically is handling the case, I understand that most police officers would generally be willing to help immediate family (such as a brother) in that sort of situation. But that's also assuming they made a copy.

Your best bet is probably to talk to the mother, as essexjan said. Explain to her why it is important to you to see it, but don't be too forceful about it. She may just need some more time.
posted by magodesky at 9:51 AM on April 19, 2006

generally speaking, in a police investigation only the investigator officers' reports--not the documents &c used to compile those reports--are public records.

cribcage has a good suggestion, but i think, ultimately, your only route to this note is through your friend's mother. it's been less than a year, she may change her mind.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:08 AM on April 19, 2006

remember to be kind to the mother - you lost a friend, but she lost a son... your friend (her other son) and you have to think very carefully about your words, your body language, your tone of voice when you approach her - she is in deep grief (she moved away!) and has many issues to sort out too.

all the best to you all - what a sad situation you are all in.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:27 PM on April 19, 2006

Cops are people, and if you explain why you're asking then he'll want to help.

I have to agree with cribcage, find the detective that was involved in the investigation. S/He may be wary of talking to a roommate, but the presence of a brother to the deceased will help open some doors.

One situation that cops face after a suicide is a family in denial. The family will say, "I can't believe that they comitted suicide, so why are you not investigating this death as a murder?" The detective will likely be willing to show you the evidence they have gathered to help you see the case from their point of view because they do not want to take the heat for doing nothing on a homicide. A suicide note is likely to be an important part of their evidence.

I wish you well in coming to terms with your loss.
posted by peeedro at 1:03 PM on April 19, 2006

Keep in mind suicide notes are not always "notes". A dear friend of mine took her own life, leaving a 40 page letter in her wake. The police kept it for some time then released it to her husband. I doubt they copied the whole thing to keep on record. The mother in your case may have the only copy.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:50 PM on April 19, 2006

I was wondering about something similar myself, only for a suicide that was in 1977 in Colorado. The note was destroyed years ago, and at the time I did not ask for a chance to read it (and it would have seemed somehow improper at the time).

Now, years later, I really wonder. I guess I will have to ask the person who destroyed the note, though I fear that to even bring it up will hurt them.
posted by beth at 2:53 PM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: thanks guys... i appreciate it. my condolences to all those who have lost as well... i understand. email me anytime if you'd like.
posted by trinarian at 5:51 PM on April 19, 2006

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