Teen texting manslaughter verdict could face a legal challenge

Carter is charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Conrad Roy III to kill himself in July 2014
Defendant Michelle Carter listens to testimony at Taunton District Court in Taunton Massachusetts
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04 August, 2017

Although the now 20-year-old faced up to 20 years in jail, on Thursday, she was sentenced by Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz to two-and-a-half years, though she is only required to serve 15 months. Roy died by suicide in the summer of 2014 after inhaling carbon monoxide from a truck's exhaust system to poison himself.

Moniz focused on messages she sent to Roy as he sat in his truck, which was filling with carbon monoxide from a generator he had hooked up to it. Roy, of Mattapoisett, briefly got out of the vehicle after he began to be overwhelmed by the fumes but returned after a message from Carter urging him to "get back in".

Because the decision of both guilt and punishment ultimately falls on Moniz's shoulders, Gertner reasoned that the judge could have decided he would find Carter guilty of a crime but not punish her harshly due to the unusual circumstances. NBC Boston will broadcast the proceedings live.

"The communications illustrated a deeply troubled defendant whose actions rose to the level of wanton and reckless disregard for the life of the victim", Healy said in a statement.

"If this is the only way you think you're gonna be happy, heaven will welcome you with open arms", she wrote him.

Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, argued that Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that.

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Carter said things like "just do it babe", "I don't get why you aren't", and - in a moment the judge emphasized in his conviction - "get back in", when Roy climbed out of his truck and said he was afraid. Carter, 17 at the time, sent a series of text messages encouraging Roy to kill himself in the hours leading up to his suicide. He said Carter had a duty to call for help. On the other hand, Carter's father who was present during the hearing said his daughter made a very tragic mistake and request the court for probation and continued counseling.

"She called no one", Moniz said in June, despite knowing where Roy was and having his family's telephone numbers.

The defense said Roy had been on a path to suicide "for years" and sought to minimize Carter's role, saying the pair were in a "long-term texting relationship" and had met in person only a handful of times. Pointing that Carter was just using her right to free speech protected by the First Amendment, Cataldo tried proving Carter is innocent.

Carter's attorneys have not yet said if they plan to appeal the verdict, but legal experts said it could be vulnerable given its groundbreaking nature.

She added that Carter's case opens up a host of questions about the legality of assisted suicide, for which there is no statute in the state of MA.

"I'm sorry I couldn't save you, I'm sorry I let you do this", she wrote, Boston.com reported. "He gave me an incredible 13 years being my best friend and the best role model any little sister could ask for".


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