Woman Found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in Suicide Texting Case
The verdict is in.
20-year-old Michelle Carter has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of her boyfriend Conrad Roy III.
Prosecutors said Carter urged Roy to kill himself in a series of text messages.
Now it could be codified law that telling someone to commit suicide is a criminal offense…
Roy was found dead in his truck on July 13, 2014, having parked in a Kmart lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
He had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, using a combustion engine to fill the cabin of the truck with fumes. He was 18.
In the weeks and months after his death, Carter shared her grief on social media.
She even organized a charity softball tournament and raised $2,300 for mental health awareness in his name.
But after investigators found hundreds of text messages Carter and Roy had exchanged — including texts in which she urged him to commit suicide, according to prosecutors — she was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“You need to do it, Conrad,” read a text she sent a day prior to his death.
“If you emit 3200 ppm of [carbon monoxide] for five or ten minutes you will die within a half hour,” she texted him.
“You lose consciousness with no pain. You fall asleep and die.”
“You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy," she reportedly wrote in another message, per CNN.
“No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”
In February 2015, seven months after Roy killed himself, Carter was indicted. She was 17 at the time of his death and was thus tried in juvenile court.
She opted against a jury trial, so the case was presented to Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors said Carter first offered “words of kindness and love” but then chastised Roy over the span of a 40-minute phone call when he had second thoughts about suicide, telling him to get back in the truck.
“It got to the point that he was apologizing to her … apologizing to her for not being dead yet,” Bristol Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said.
Carter later texted her friends to say she had heard his last words and breaths over the phone — all in a bid to get attention from friends, the prosecutors argued.
Defense attorney Joseph Cataldo argued that Roy had planned his suicide for a while and that his client was troubled and “overwhelmed with all of her baggage,” including the side effects of a depression medication.
“The evidence actually established that Conrad Roy caused his own death by his physical actions and by his own thoughts,” he said.
“You’re dealing with an individual who wanted to take his own life … He dragged Michelle Carter into this.
“It’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s just not a homicide.”
A psychiatrist corroborated Cotaldo’s claims during the trial, testifying that Carter was delusional and “unable to form intent” because antidepressants had made her “involuntarily intoxicated.”
But Moniz decided it was both Carter’s actions and inaction that incriminated her.
“She called no one, and finally she did not issue a simple additional instruction: Get out of the truck,” he said as he delivered the ruling today, June 16.
“This court has found that Carter’s actions and failure to act where it was her self-created duty to Roy, since she put him in that toxic environment, constituted reckless conduct. The court finds that the conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy.”
Carter’s trial and subsequent conviction could set a legal precedent now about the culpability of people who tell others to commit suicide, according to CNN.
“At the moment, there’s really no law on the books in Massachusetts about whether somebody can encourage somebody to commit suicide or not,” Boston defense attorney Peter Elikann told WFXT.
It certainly wasn’t an open-and-shut case, as Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University, previously told CNN.
“The wrinkle here is whether she coerced him or pressured him into doing something that he wasn't in a position to rationally and autonomously decide to do because he was in such a depressive state,” Medwed said.
“It's a square peg in a round hole," he said. "It's not a perfect fit for manslaughter.”
Moniz spent 15 minutes explaining his rationale for the verdict, as Carter cried silently, CNN reports.
Now she faces up to 20 years in prison.
More as this story develops…