Teen Found Guilty of Telling Boyfriend To Comitt Suicide Via Text
A judge in Massachusetts has decided that a teen can be held legally responsible for a string of text messages that led her boyfriend's suicide.
Michelle Carter has been convicted on charges of involuntary manslaugter after state's attorneys convinced a judge in a jury-waived trial that she encouraged Conrad Roy III to take his own life. Carter could face up to 20 years in prison in a sentencing hearing scheduled for August of this year.
“I can’t take the pain,” Conrad Roy III wrote in a suicide note to his father. “I did this to be finally happy, I don’t feel like I belong here.”
The 18-year-old Massachusetts native with a history of mental health problems and suicide attempts also left a note for his 17-year-old girlfriend Carter, who prosecutors say instigated his May 2014 suicide. Roy's body was found in a local parking lot after he had inhaled fatal amounts of carbon monoxide from a gasoline-powered generator in his pickup truck. Roy had apparently begun coughing and had second thoughts until Carter texted him to get back in the car and finish the deed.
“How bad do you want it because if you want it bad, you should succeed,” she texted him.
The prosecution read off pages of Carter's text messages goading Roy into going further with more dangeous acts of self-harm leading up to his suicide and framed Carter as an individual desperately seeking sympathy and attention from her peers. Bristol County District Attourney Katie Rayburn argued Carter didn't need to be in the room to have made him want to take his life.
“It got to the point where he was apologizing to her, apologizing for letting her down, and for not being dead yet,” Rayburn said. “Her words of encouragement are throughout, but are especially prevalent when he has doubts. She told him to get back into the car and she knew he was going to die.”
Carter's defense team countered that she had issues of her own that were made worse by Roy, who was bent on committing suicide regardless of her actions. She had struggled with an eating disorder, self harm, and suicide attempts of her own, but these weren't enough to convince Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz to grant Carter a not guilty verdict.
This sets a new and revolutionary legal precedent in which people can be held liable for criminal acts instigated over the phone. Everyone, not just smartphone addicted teens, will now heed the Carter case a cautionary tale about the newly found responsibility that comes with words and images shared electronically. This will change the face of bullying and cyberbullying cases for years to come, because it has been formally established that one need not be present to commit a criminal act that leads to tragic death.
“Phones allow you to be virtually present,” Rayburn said in concluding remarks. “People fall in love over the Internet and text, people bully over the Internet, you can encourage someone to die via text, and you can commit a crime via text.”