Thursday, 30 June 2022

Texting suicide case: Michelle Carter faces 20 years at sentencing

Michelle Carter 2

LONDON: Michelle Carter’s own words helped seal her involuntary manslaughter conviction in the suicide of her boyfriend Conrad Roy III.

Hundreds of her text messages presented as evidence over six days of testimony in June convinced a Massachusetts judge of her guilt in a criminal case that hinged largely on the teenage couple’s intimate cellphone exchanges.

Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz will have an opportunity to hear directly from Carter and others before passing sentence on the 20-year-old Thursday. The case – which could prompt the drawing up of new laws to deal with the behavior highlighted in the trial – has been closely watched by legal analysts.

Carter faces up to 20 years in prison, though one expert said such a lengthy sentence is unlikely. “She will be given little, if any, jail time, in my view,” said Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney.

“The crime was horrific, but based upon her youth, I believe the judge’s sentence will focus more on rehabilitation than on punishment. Though some punishment would be appropriate – and I think the judge also needs to deter copy cats.”

Jackson noted the judge allowed Carter – who was tried as a juvenile because she was 17 at the time of the crime – to remain free on bail following her conviction. “That’s a big deal, and a sign of his thinking,” Jackson said of the judge’s post-conviction bail status.

“If he was going to slam her, he would have put her in upon conviction.” Roy, 18, poisoned himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck in 2014.
In a 15-minute explanation of his ruling, Moniz focused on the defendant’s extensive text messages.

“She admits in … texts that she did nothing: She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family” after hearing his last breaths during a phone call, Moniz said as Carter cried silently.

Michelle Carter 1
“And, finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: Get out of the truck.”

The state argued that the evidence was damning. Carter sent Roy numerous text messages urging him to commit suicide, listened over the phone as he suffocated — and failed to alert authorities or his family that he’d died. Moniz agreed.

“This court has found that Carter’s actions and failure to act where it was her self-created duty to Roy since she put him in that toxic environment constituted reckless conduct,” the judge said. “The court finds that the conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy.”
With Carter standing, Moniz said, “This court, having reviewed the evidence, finds you guilty on the indictment with involuntary manslaughter.”

One July 2012 exchange of texts messages was typical:
Roy: “I’m overthinking”
Carter: “I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe. You can’t keep doing this every day.”

Roy’s relatives, who sat near Carter in the front row of the courtroom, wept as the judge ticked through the steps Roy took to end his life, as well as Carter’s complicity. Sitting opposite them, Carter’s family members also sobbed.

Prosecutor Katie Rayburn said after there were “no winners” in the case, which concluded with two families torn apart, emotionally drained and affected for years.

Roy aspired to be a tugboat captain and would be alive if not for Carter’s actions, Rayburn told reporters. He had been trying to better himself, and “we all wish he had the opportunity” to grow up, she said.

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