Mass. Woman Will Go to Prison for Urging Boyfriend in Texts to Kill Himself, Court Rules
A Massachusetts woman must serve prison time after she urged her boyfriend to kill himself in a series of text and phone conversations, a Massachusetts court ruled Monday.
Carter had been sentenced to 15 months in jail after her conviction but remained free during her appeal. Her defense argued that her statements and texts urging Roy forward as he contemplated suicide were covered by First Amendment free-speech protections.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, concluding in its ruling that “the evidence was sufficient to support the judge’s finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender, and that the other legal issues presented by the defendant, including her First Amendment claim, lack merit,” in the opinion written by Justice Scott L. Kafker, The Boston Globe reports.
Roy died in his pickup truck from carbon monoxide poisoning — an act Carter had supported and encouraged in exchanges that came to light after Roy’s death on July 13, 2014.
Testimony at Carter’s 2017 trial revealed that Carter, who was not present with Roy at the time he died, was on the phone with him as he expressed doubts about his actions.
In finding Carter guilty, Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz highlighted two revelations from Carter’s trial. As Roy expressed his desire to abort his fatal plan by getting out of the truck, Carter told him to get back in. Then she initially failed to tell anyone else about it.
“She did nothing,” said Moniz. “She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction [to Roy]: ‘Get out of the truck.'”
The Massachusetts high court ruling picked up a similar theme.
Roy was a “vulnerable, confused, mentally ill, 18-year-old” who had stepped out of his truck as it filled with carbon monoxide,” Kafker wrote. “But then in this weakened state he was badgered back into the gas-infused truck by the defendant, his girlfriend.”
“After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck,” he wrote, “she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die.”
An attorney for Carter, Daniel N. Marx, said in a statement that her defense team was “disappointed” by Monday’s high court ruling, reports the Boston Globe.
“We continue to believe that Michelle Carter did not cause Conrad Roy’s tragic death, and she should not be held criminally responsible for his choice to end his own life,” said Marx. “Today’s decision stretches the law to assign blame for a tragedy that was not a crime.”
But he did not concede defeat, vowing to “evaluate all legal options for Michelle including a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” according to his statement.
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The high court’s ruling “has very troubling implications, for free speech, due process, and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, that should concern us all,” he said. “There are good reasons why nearly every other state has passed a law to address ‘assisted suicide,’ which inevitably involves complicated circumstances better addressed as a matter of policy by the legislature than in any particular case by the court.”
Meanwhile, the Bristol County Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it would soon ask the Juvenile Court to order Carter to begin serving her sentence.
“This case is a tragedy for all of the people impacted by this case,” Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn said in the statement. “Her conduct was wanton and reckless, and caused the death of Conrad Roy. This type of conduct has long been a crime in Massachusetts.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.