A woman who exchanged more than 1,000 texts with her teenage boyfriend encouraging him to commit suicide, is appealing her conviction arguing that the texts were "protected free speech" and should not have been used against her.
Michelle Carter, 21, was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in jail after the 2014 suicide of 18-year-old Conrad Ray III, an act, prosecutors say, that was supported and encouraged by Carter. Roy committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning after he attached a hose to a portable generator to fill his truck cab with the gas that ultimately killed him.
Among some of the texts sent from Carter, then 17, included ones that stated: “You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing,” and “You just have to do it” as well as, "It’s painless and quick.”
The appeal of Carter's involuntary manslaughter conviction takes issue with several statements made by Bristol County Judge Lawrence Moniz.
“Carter’s actions and also her failure to act where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy, since she had put him in that toxic environment, constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct," Moniz said during his verbal ruling on the case.
The judge highlighted several moments in the text messages as damaging to Carter's case. When her boyfriend expressed his desire to not commit suicide by getting out of his truck, Carter told him to get back in, Moniz said. Then she also initially failed to tell anyone else about her boyfriend's suicide.
“She [instructed] Mr. Roy to get back into the truck, well-knowing of all of the feelings that he [had] exchanged with her: his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns,” Moniz said.
The judge added: “She did nothing. She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction [to her boyfriend]: ‘Get out of the truck.'”
The judge's statements during his decision is one focus for Carter's appeal. "Because the judge convicted Carter for what she said, or failed to say, not what she did, this case implicates free speech under the First Amendment and art,” her attorneys wrote.
“Carter’s words encouraging Roy’s suicide, however distasteful to this Court, were protected speech," Carter's attorneys added.
Should Carter's conviction stand, her attorneys write, "Massachusetts would be the only state to uphold an involuntary manslaughter conviction where an absent defendant, with words alone, encouraged another person to commit suicide."
Carter is currently free on bail awaiting the outcome of her appeal which the Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to consider.