Massachusetts Woman Sentenced in Texting Suicide Case
In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III was found in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, after poisoning himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck. Three years later, his then-girlfriend Michelle Carter has been sentenced to 15 months in a Massachusetts jail after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Relatives of Roy state that he was a troubled young man who had struggled with mental health issues in the past, and had attempted suicide before taking his life in 2014. In a series of text exchanges between the then-teenagers, Carter is seen to be encouraging Roy to follow through with his suicide, even after he expressed hesitation. Prosecutors say that Carter then used his death to get attention from friends.
“She admits in texts that she did nothing,” said Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz. “She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family after hearing his last breaths during a phone call. And finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: get out of the truck.”
The case may lead the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law making it illegal to engage in “coercing or encouraging suicide,” a law that is already in place in about 40 states.
Carter had faced up to 20 years in prison, but defense attorney Joe Cataldo asked for five years of probation with required mental health counseling. Carter had been diagnosed with eating disorders and was taking antidepressants prior to the death of Roy.
“The goal is not punitive but rehabilitative,said Cataldo, saying that the case involved not one, but two young people struggling with mental issues.
“By displaying mercy in terms of the relatively short duration of the sentence, I think (the judge) was trying to remain true to the goals of our juvenile system…” said Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University. “….which is not to lock them up and throw away the key, but to impose punishment with an eye toward helping the defendant undergo self-improvement and ideally lead a productive life.”
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