Massachusetts’ highest court has upheld the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a young woman who used dozens of text messages to persuade her boyfriend to carry out his suicide.
Michelle Carter, now 20, was originally sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in the death of boyfriend Conrad Roy III in 2014.
Carter, who could have been sentenced to up to 20 years, remained free pending the appeal. She will now have to serve 15 months.
Her lawyers said Wednesday that they will consider appealing the Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In upholding the lower court conviction, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday that the evidence proved that Carter, then 17, caused the suicide of 18-year-old Roy by telling him in a text message to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas when he got momentarily scared.
Her lawyers argued Carter didn’t force Roy to take his own life and that there wasn’t sufficient evidence she told him to get back into the vehicle.
Prosecutors argued that Carter could have stopped Roy but instead pressed him to go through with his plan.
At the 2017 trial, Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz called the case, which garnered international attention, “a tragedy for two families.” Both teens struggled with depression. Carter had been treated for anorexia, and Roy had made earlier suicide attempts.
Moniz said Carter’s text constituted “wanton and reckless conduct” under the manslaughter statute. He said Carter had a duty to call for help.
Carter’s grim taunt was one of dozens of similar texts she sent Roy urging him not to back down. “The time is right and you are ready … just do it babe,” Carter wrote in a text the day he killed himself.
“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t,” Carter wrote in another text.
Prosecutor Maryclare Flynn argued that Carter showed no remorse and in fact “sought attention and sympathy for herself.”
After Roy’s death, the prosecution said, she “continued to use and deceive all of them until she was caught by her own words.”
Carter’s lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, told the lower court that both young people at the time were “struggling with mental issues themselves.”
“Miss Carter will have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of her life,” Cataldo told the court. “This was a horrible circumstance that she completely regrets.”
Cataldo argued during the trial that Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that. He said Carter initially tried to talk Roy out of it and urged him to get professional help, but eventually went along with his plan. Cataldo also argued Carter’s words amounted to free speech protected by the First Amendment.
A day after Roy died, Carter posted a lengthy message on his Facebook page in which she mourned his death.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, I’m sorry I let you do this,” she wrote, Boston.com reported.
“I never thought I would have to live a day without him,” Carter said in the post, which was introduced by the prosecution during her trial.
In his decision, Moniz further ruled that Carter was prohibited from gaining any profit from interviews, books or movies based on the sensational case.
Contributing: Associated Press
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