Michelle Carter has been sentenced to fifteen months in prison by a Massachusetts judge for involuntary manslaughter after encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, via text messages to commit suicide. Miss Carter waived her right to a jury trial, leading to the magistrate’s controversial sentencing. Many legal experts are arguing that this ruling exceeds any constitutional boundaries by setting a dangerous precedent against free speech rights.
The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Matthew Segal, weighed in on the Michelle Carter case, proclaiming that the ruling was unconstitutional:
There is no law in Massachusetts making it a crime to persuade someone to commit suicide. And there should not be any sentence handed down against Ms. Carter for involuntary manslaughter because her conviction for that crime is improper. It exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.
Other legal experts have counterbalanced Segal’s claims on the controversial case. According to People Magazine, former prosecutor and vice dean at St. John’s University School of Law in New York, Larry Cunningham, argues:
I thought the judge’s verdict was very thoughtful and detailed, and he placed emphasis on the fact that Carter created this situation and then did nothing to stop Roy from hurting himself. The appellate court will struggle with this one.
However, Cunningham and the establishment media have overlooked critical facts regarding the developments leading up to the teen’s death. As reported by Liberty Nation, Carter was on a forty-minute phone call with her boyfriend on the night of his suicide, encouraging him to take his own life through carbon monoxide poisoning. Following his death, the teen girl lied to Roy’s family and authorities, claiming to be ignorant of his passing. Many argue, however, that Roy was not without fault.
Carter had previously discouraged her boyfriend from harming himself after he outspokenly expressed his struggles with depression and earlier suicide attempts. In fact, Roy initially proposed that they should end their lives together, stating, “Let’s do a Romeo and Juliet.” It was not until after the teen declared: “There’s nothing anyone can do for me that’s gonna make me wanna live,” that his girlfriend began motivating him to take his own life to escape the pain. On the night of Roy’s death, Carter texted him that she would not sleep until he was dead.
Although Carter’s encouragement of her boyfriend to commit suicide may be morally reprehensible, there are no laws in Massachusetts that criminalize her actions. Moreover, her texts did not kill Roy or “create the situation,” as Cunningham claims. Rather, the unfortunate boy had struggled silently with depression and actively contemplated ending his life years before ever meeting Carter, as reported by Liberty Nation.
In addition to sentencing Carter to fifteen months in prison, Judge Moniz also ordered mandatory rehabilitation for her mental state; the Boston Globe reports that she has also struggled with eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. For the time being, Carter remains free pending appeal, and the higher courts may yet reverse the ruling.