Michelle Carter faces 20 years in prison after a Massachusetts judge found her responsible for the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Conrad killed himself in 2014 by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
In presenting his rationale for the manslaughter conviction Judge Lawrence Moniz called Ms. Carter’s actions “reckless” with a “wanton” disregard. Ms. Carter opted for a trial by judge and rejected her right to a jury trial.
The case stems from a situation where Mr. Roy, a severely depressed young man, had told his girlfriend and confidant, Ms. Carter, that he wanted to die. He told her he was going to kill himself but wasn’t sure how he should do it. After research by himself and Ms. Carter it was decided he would kill himself by placing a generator in his vehicle and seal off any fresh air from the carbon monoxide.
Some say the guilty verdict in this suicide by text message is a “slippery slope” against free speech, assisted suicide, and that it muddles the water regarding criminal liability versus personal responsibility. Little focus was placed on earlier text messages where Ms. Carter initially suggested Mr. Roy get help and possibly go into a “mental hospital”.
“But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life,” she texted on July 19. 2014.
Roy, 18, committed suicide in 2014. The Massachusetts District Attorney held fast that had Ms. Carter contacted someone who could actually help, Mr. Roy would not have been successful. Their claim was Ms. Carter helped to instigate the suicide when, among other things, sent a text to Mr. Roy “ordering” him to get back into the vehicle and go through with it. She went as far as to text that his parents would “get over it”.
Now, 20 years old, Ms. Carter’s defense team presented expert testimony from Dr. Peter Breggin wherein he stated she was “involuntarily intoxicated” because of the anti-depressant she was taking. The expert explained it is an SSRI pharmaceutical Celexa and caused her to have “erratic” behaviors. The DA countered with its own expert who simply said there is no such thing as “involuntary intoxication” cause by Celexa.
The full accounts of the texts conversations can be read here