A Massachusetts teen who in 2014 allegedly urged a friend via text to kill himself will be required to stand trial, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday.
Michelle Carter, 18, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy, who committed suicide by funneling carbon monoxide into his car using a water hose.
According to AP, Carter’s defense argued that her texts were protected by the First Amendment, but the court apparently saw things differently: Carter, it said, was engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion,” and her orders constituted a “direct, causal link” to Roy’s decision to take his life.
As Justice Robert Cordy wrote:
“In sum, we conclude that there was probable cause to show that the coercive quality of the defendant’s verbal conduct overwhelmed whatever willpower the eighteen year old victim had to cope with his depression, and that but for the defendant’s admonishments, pressure, and instructions, the victim would not have gotten back into the truck and poisoned himself to death.”
The two teens first met in Florida two years earlier, and their relationship was built largely on texts and emails. Despite living only 50 miles apart, Carter and Roy hadn’t seen each other in person in more than a year.
Carter was known to have her own struggles with mental health, and had previously referred to her time spent at a local psychiatric facility. Roy, for his part, suffered from severe depression and overdosed on acetaminophen when he was 17.
Here’s a sample of the texts the two traded:
“How was your day?” Roy asked, in one of the exchanges.
Carter: “When are you doing it? … :) My day was okay. How was yours?”
Carter: “That’s great. What did you do?”
Roy: “Ended up going to work for a little bit and then just looked stuff up.”
Carter: “When are you gonna do it? Stop ignoring the question. ????”
Carter’s lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, had initially filed a motion to have the case dismissed. He said he was surprised by the ruling, since Massachusetts does not legally prohibit either encouraging or assisting in suicide, but noted that the decision to proceed with the trial was not a presumption of either guilt or innocence.
“At trial, it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard, and I’m confident that ultimately, after trial, Michelle Carter will be acquitted,” he said.
Image via AP.