Though It's incredibly rare for a court to hold another person's words responsible for someone's suicide, the court determined today that Michelle Carter, 20, was legally responsible for the July 2014 incident, which resulted in the death by suicide of Conrad Roy III, 18.
The judge presiding over the case reviewed extensive evidence, including thousands of text messages sent back-and-forth between the couple, and eventually ruled that Carter did little to stop Roy from putting himself in harm's way.
Breggin said Carter was in the grips of a "grandiose" delusion that she alone could help Roy find his way to heaven and she would care for his family. Moniz declared that both Carter's failure to act and her actions amounted to "reckless conduct". Carter also allegedly texted Roy telling him to "get back in" to his auto prior to his death, after he reportedly texted her expressing hesitancy and worry.
Prosecutors argued that Carter contributed to Roy's death in the hopes of receiving positive attention from friends.
The prosecution asked for Carter's bail to be revoked, but Moniz allowed her to remain out on bail until her sentencing on August 3.
As reported by the Associated Press, Carter's lawyer failed to sway the court with arguments about Roy's history of depression and past suicide attempts.
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Prosecutors argued at trial that her text messages supported their claim that Carter caused Roy's death by "wantonly and recklessly" helping him poison himself.
He was found dead in his truck July 2014 in a MA K-Mart parking lot. "You just keep pushing it off to another night and say you'll do it but you never do".
Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist testifying for the defense, said Carter was a "very troubled youngster" who suffered from depression. The New York Times reports that Carter had first attempted (via her texts) to talk Roy out of killing himself when he initially expressed a desire.
Carter is now out on bail. She could face up to 20 years in prison, although Moniz noted he considered her a "youthful offender". Carter wrote in one message, according to AP.
When Roy insisted that he meant to carry out the act, but wasn't ready, he was met with a barrage of criticism from his girlfriend. "You said you were gonna do it". "I thought you really wanted to die but apparently you don't".
"There is no law in MA making it a crime to encourage someone, or even to persuade someone, to commit suicide".
This case has been one to watch because it's uncharted territory that raises the question of whether someone could kill someone just through words and encouragement... and whether those words are constitutionally protected speech.