Mass. Teen Will Stand Trial for Manslaughter After Allegedly Encouraging Her Friend to Kill Himself
The court rejected Carter's attorney's argument that the texts were protected free speech
A Massachusetts teen charged with involuntary manslaughter, after allegedly using a series of text messages to encourage her friend to kill himself, will soon stand trial, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday.
Michelle Carter is charged in the 2014 death of Conrad Roy, 18, who authorities said killed himself via carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas-powered water pump running inside his vehicle.
The court’s decision, which was obtained by PEOPLE, held that a grand jury had probable cause to indict Carter, who was 17 when Roy died. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Carter’s lawyers had filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the texts were free speech protected by the First Amendment. Her lawyer, Joseph P. Cataldo, told PEOPLE, Carter had been brainwashed by Roy into going along with his plan to kill himself.
The court rejected Cataldo’s argument, writing, “Effectively, the argument is that verbal conduct can never overcome a person’s willpower to live, and therefore cannot be the cause of a suicide. We disagree.”
The court’s decision continued, “It was apparent that the defendant understood the repercussions of her role in the victim’s death. Prior to his death, the defendant sought (apparently unsuccessfully) to have the victim delete the text messages between the two.”
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According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, released in 2015, Carter allegedly sent a message to Roy saying, “Tonight is the night” and “It’s painless and quick.”
When Roy expressed hesitancy, Carter allegedly texted, according to the documents “You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing.”
She also allegedly texted him that his parents would be able to “move on” from his death, the documents state. “I think your parents know you’re in a really bad place. I’m not saying they want you to do it but I honestly feel like they can accept it,” she allegedly texted.
In response to a text from Roy saying he was ready to follow through with his plan, Carter allegedly texted, according to the documents, “Good because it’s time, babe. You know that. When you get back from the beach you’ve gotta do it. You’re ready. You’re determined. It’s the best time to do it.”
The documents allege that Carter stayed on the phone with Roy for more than an hour while carbon monoxide filled the car.
After Roy died, the documents state, Carter allegedly texted her friend, “His death is my fault. Like, I honestly could have stopped it. I was the one on the phone with him and he got out of the car because [the carbon monoxide] was working and I … told him to get back in.”