Michelle Carter Guilty of Manslaughter on Words Alone

Judge Lawrence Moniz has found Michelle Carter Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter after bench trial in Taunton Juvenile Court. Judge Moniz held that Ms. Carter’s actions and failure to act caused the death of Conrad Roy III.

Judge Moniz’s decision seemed to hinge on the text Carter had sent to her friend Sam Boardman which stated “Sam, Conrad’s death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the [truck] because it was working and he got scared and I f—— told him to get back in Sam because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldnt have him live the way he was living anymore I couldnt do it I wouldnt let him,”.

The Judge held that Carter’s statements, urging Mr. Roy to get back into his car, were wanton and reckless and that these statements created a situation where there was a high degree of likelihood that Mr. Roy would suffer death or serious injury. Judge Moniz further stated that when Carter told Mr. Roy to get back into the car she created a dangerous, likely deadly situation, and by creating the deadly situation, Carter had a duty to alleviate that danger. By failing to tell Roy to get out of the car or call for help she caused Mr. Roy’s death. The Judge cited Mr. Roy’s prior suicide attempt, where he had reached out to a friend who counseled him not to go through with it and contrasted that with Carter’s actions telling him to get back in the car.

The defense had addressed Ms. Carter’s text to Boardman in his closing. Attorney Cataldo asked the judge to consider the hypocrisy in the Commonwealth’s argument that Carter was a liar in all her previous texts, including the assertion by the prosecutor that Ms. Carter was lying about cutting to get attention, but not in the text to Boardman telling her that she told Roy to get back in the car. There was no evidence presented that corroborated Ms. Carter’s text to Boardman, no additional evidence to show that she did in fact order Mr. Roy back into his car.

The Judge was not persuaded by the defense’s argument and found that the defense expert testimony that Ms. Carter was involuntarily intoxicated by Celexa was not credible.

This case sets an unsettling precedent in which words or texts alone are sufficient to convict a person of manslaughter.While obviously abhorrent, the texts sent by Ms. Carter are those of a teenager suffering from her own mental struggles. Furthermore, they were words not actions. The facts in the case show that Mr. Roy procured the generator, he put it in his car, he drove to the KMART parking lot, he turned the generator on and he got back in the car. Ms. Carter was not present for any of these actions. She did text him pressuring him to kill himself and she did say that she told him to get back in the car, but at no point did she physically assist him in anyway. In response to the verdict, the ACLU of Massachusetts released a statement expressing their concern that this decision “exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.”

Ms. Carter is set to appear back in court on August 3, 2017 for sentencing. The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts is 20 years.

 

 

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