The Massachusetts Supreme Court has upheld the involuntary manslaughter conviction of Michelle Carter, who pressured her boyfriend via text messages to commit suicide. She will serve 15 months in prison for the 2017 conviction, followed by five years of probation.
“The evidence against the defendant proved that, by her wanton or reckless conduct, she caused the victim’s death by suicide,” the high court opinion reads, per NBC News. “Her conviction of involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender is not legally or constitutionally infirm. The judgment is therefore affirmed.”
In July 2014, a 17-year-old Carter encouraged her then-18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself through a series of phone calls and text exchanges. Roy, who suffered from depression, communicated to Carter that he wanted to back out of his suicide plan, but Carter told him to go through with it.
Roy killed himself on July 13th, 2014 by attaching a hose to a portable generator and filling his pickup truck with carbon monoxide. Carter was on the phone with Roy as he took his own life, and authorities found his body in the vehicle in a parking lot.
Several of the texts investigators discovered showed Carter insisting that Roy cast aside his doubts and commit suicide. “You just have to do it,” one read. “It’s painless and quick,” another read.
Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz hinged his ruling on two key moments from the day of Roy’s death: Carter telling Roy to get back in his truck as it filled with poisonous fumes, and then failing to tell anyone else about it. “She did nothing,” Moniz said. “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.’”
Carter was initially sentenced to two-and-a-half years, though all but 15 months were suspended as her attorneys filed an appeal. In court papers, her legal team argued that she was convicted on “words alone,” constituting a violation of free speech.
“Carter is the first defendant to have been convicted of killing a person who took his own life, even though she neither provided the fatal means nor was present when the suicide occurred,” the filing read. “Nothing in Massachusetts law made clear to 17-year-old Carter, or anyone else, that such circumstances could constitute involuntary manslaughter.”