Massachusetts’s highest court on Wednesday upheld an 2017 involuntary manslaughter conviction for a woman who sent text messages to her boyfriend encouraging his suicide.
The state’s Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision finding Michelle Carter, now 22, responsible in part for the suicide of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III.
Carter was 17 in 2014 when she was on a phone call with Roy as he inhaled carbon monoxide inside a truck. Three years later, she was sentenced to 15 months behind bars but has remained free pending the appeal. She will now have to serve her original sentence.
Her legal team argued in its appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that Carter’s words were protected by the First Amendment, but the judges disagreed in their written opinion.
Massachusetts Justice Scott Kafker wrote that “no constitutional violation results from convicting a defendant of involuntary manslaughter for reckless and wanton, pressuring text messages and phone calls, preying upon well-known weaknesses, fears, anxieties and promises, that finally overcame the willpower to live to a mentally ill, vulnerable, young person, thereby coercing him to commit suicide.”
Prosectors said Carter sent Roy text messages encouraging him not to back down after he got momentarily scared and hesitated in his intention to kill himself, USA Today noted.
“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.
Prosecutors at trial argued that Carter could have stopped Roy or called for help.
Her attorneys also contested her involuntary manslaughter conviction, claiming it was unconstitutional for a youthful offender.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court, however, ruled that the 17-year-old was at an “age-appropriate level of maturity.”
“Her ongoing contact with the victim in the days leading to his suicide, texting with him about suicide methods and his plans and demanding that he carry out his plan rather than continue to delay, as well as the lengthy call phone conversations on the night itself, showed that her actions were not spontaneous or impulsive,” Kafker’s ruling states.
Both teenagers struggled with depression, USA Today noted. Carter had recently been treated for anorexia and Roy had made previous suicide attempts.
Her lawyers said Wednesday that they are considering appealing the state’s ruling up to the U.S. Supreme Court.