A Massachusetts teen who allegedly sent texts encouraging a friend to kill himself should not face criminal charges, her lawyers have argued.
The evidence against Michelle Carter, who was 18 when she was charged last year with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Conrad Roy III, does not amount to the “infliction or threat of serious bodily harm” warranting criminal charges, the documents, obtained by PEOPLE, state.
Carter is court today trying to reverse an earlier court ruling that she must stand trial and potentially face up to 20 years in prison.
Roy, 18, was found dead on July 13, 2014, in his pickup truck from carbon monoxide poisoning. A trail of texts he sent and received led to Carter, then 17, who allegedly later wrote to another friend that she told Roy to “get back in” his truck to continue his efforts to kill himself.
Documents released by prosecutors further revealed Carter allegedly sent texts to Roy imploring him to go through with his suicide, including ones stating, “You just have to do it,” “Tonight is the night,” and “It’s painless and quick.”
Carter’s attorney, Joseph P. Cataldo, has argued that the texts are protected speech – and, in the recent court filing obtained by PEOPLE, that they “did not contain anything remotely resembling a threat.” But a juvenile court judge ruled last September that Carter’s involuntary manslaughter charge should stand, subjecting her to the potential adult penalty as a “youthful offender” rather than a juvenile.
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Carter’s defense attorney appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Judicial Court, whose seven justices picked up the case today.
Roy’s friends recalled him as a popular and funny athlete who talked about taking over his family’s marine towing and salvage business. But he also suffered from anxiety, was taking antidepressants and had canceled a planned move away for college.
Close friends knew he had allegedly tried previously to commit suicide.
After the court decision last fall, Carter’s defense team shared text messages that showed Carter had sent Roy information about social anxiety disorder, and wrote, “I don’t want you feeling this way anymore, I want you to be happy.”
The state high court could allow the case to advance to the adult arm of juvenile court, dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge against Carter, or decide that Carter should be tried as a juvenile rather than a “youthful offender” and with potentially lesser penalties, according to a report by South Coast Today.
The prosecution did not release its pretrial filing because it contains closed records of the grand jury proceedings that indicted Carter, a spokesman for the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office told the newspaper. “We look forward to making our case in court,” said the spokesman, Gregg Miliote.
A ruling is expected at a later date.