The Confusing Case Of Michelle Carter

nintchdbpict000330028230On August 3rd, 2017, Michelle Carter was charged with 15 months in jail after being charged with the involuntary manslaughter of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy. Carter and Conrad had met back in 2012 on a vacation trip which ended up with the young couple exchanging social media and phone numbers with one another. The teens would spend most of their relationship online by means of texting or chat on social platforms.  They only had the chance to meet in person a few times.

 

Conrad Roy was a bright, young student who was on his way to a positive future in college with a scholarship under his belt, yet he was dealing with some underlying depression issues. It was those issues that he would talk about and share with Carter in their many text conversations over the course of their relationship. Many of the text messages consisted of Conrad talking about wanting to end his life in order to escape.  The conversations started with Carter asking for him to get help, but soon her texts began goading him to kill himself. On July 12th, 2014, Conrad played out the plan set by him and his girlfriend Michelle Carter as he passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning by putting a pipe from his exhaust into the closed cab of his car while he sat in it.

 

Many people say that the charges of involuntary manslaughter against Michelle Carter were made with no legal precedent because there are no specific laws in the state of Massachusetts that clearly explain that goading someone over social media to harm and kill themselves could be considered murder. I believe that under MGL Chapter 265, Section 13 which states involuntary manslaughter as  “An unlawful killing that was unintentionally caused as the result of the defendants’ wanton or reckless conduct”, that Michelle Carter did indeed deserve the legal charge of involuntary manslaughter due to her wanton or reckless conduct.

One of the most chilling details, in this case, is that Carter pretended to be totally oblivious to the fact that Conrad was going to kill himself when the world first found out about his death. It was actually Carter who put the family on high alert by sending a casual text to Conrad’s sister saying, “Hey Camdyn, like, do you know where your brother is?” the evening after he had gone through with his suicide. After police found Conrad’s car, they began to investigate the situation of the suicide and came across his phone, which contained the text messages from Carter. As the days went by, Carter was grieving for Conrad, along with many other people in Massachusetts.  She was seen crying at his funeral and was described by the family in an interview with CBS as “the grieving widow.…she was constantly sobbing … She made a scene”. Soon after the funeral and fundraisers, police came to question Carter because they had found the final thread of texts between her and Conrad on his phone. The police questioned Carter about the day that Conrad committed suicide, and she denied truly knowing the circumstances. When they asked if she was in contact with him prior to the suicide she said “I was talking to him on the phone… like, the night before the 12th, like the phone, like hung up but I didn’t — didn’t really think anything of it.” Carter lied to the police and was attempting to cover up her tracks. This was not the sign of an innocent bystander in a suicide, but instead seemed to be the plot of someone who was afraid of getting caught.

The Police began to question Carter’s storyline as they began to search through her phone, where they found evidence of her sending messages to a friend just minutes after Conrad’s death saying things like, “He just called me…I heard moaning like someone was in pain and he wouldn’t answer when I said his name…I think he just killed himself.” Carter was fully aware of what was happening and decided to instead text a friend about the situation and victimized herself.

The prosecutor’s biggest form of defense against Carter is the evidence of the texts and phone calls that show that Carter was fully aware of everything that was being done up to the point of Conrad’s last breath. In an article written by attorney Aaron Keller, he explains why the judge’s charge of involuntary manslaughter against Carter was correct under Massachusetts law. Keller states that “In Commonwealth v. Levesque (2002), the Commonwealth’s highest court defined involuntary manslaughter as an ‘unintentional’ homicide caused by an act’ which disregards ‘harmful consequences’ to another person and ‘constitute[s] wanton or reckless conduct.’” The key terms that drive the charge against Carter are “an act”, “wanton”, and “reckless conduct”. First, we see that the act can also be defined as the omission of action when a person has the duty to act. This is explained in a simple legal lesson example; If you saw a man drowning in a lake and did not take any action to save him, you are not breaking any laws and are safe vs. if you push the man into the lake then watch him drown while taking no action to save him as he drowns, which puts you under the category of involuntary manslaughter. This can be seen in the case of Carter and Conrad because there were many text exchanges between the two where Carter literally laid out exactly how Conrad would be able to kill himself using “3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes”, and as the plan was put into action, Carter goaded him into staying in the truck and finishing what he started when she said “f—- get back in the truck” on a phone call.

The second terms “wanton” and “reckless conduct” go hand in hand because the state of Massachusetts describes this as “Conduct which creates a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another person.” So in the case of Carter and Conrad, it can be presumed that Carter’s texts goading Conrad to follow through with his suicide and giving him the plans to do it, while finally making him go back into his car to finish his life, could be considered actions which inflicted a high degree of substantial harm to another person. Carter’s attempt at portraying herself as innocent to the people around her and to the media failed incredibly as the case against her crumbled.

Now, there are many people who believe that Carter did not deserve the charge of involuntary manslaughter. People are speaking up on social media to express the degree of mental health problems that Carter has, and how she needs help through therapy instead of jail time. One person who believes that this should be the case is the infamous Amanda Knox who was charged with a murder of her housemate in Italy years ago. Knox pleads on media outlets that this defamation of character with no means of rehabilitation would ruin Carter’s life. Rehabilitation should be part of the process, but it does not mean that there should not be consequences for the actions that Carter had done that lead to the death of Conrad.

A group called the ACLU argue that Carter’s case does not follow the guidelines of Massachusetts law, but again Keller explains 2 cases Commonwealth v. Atencio (1963) and Persampieri v. Commonwealth (1961) that prove that codes under involuntary manslaughter do match up to the actions of Michelle Carter. In each case, there are situations in which someone was goaded into harming themselves by someone, but for this case, it was done over technology because of the ever changing evolution of how we communicate. The ACLU also attempted to claim that this case will now “chill important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved ones across the Commonwealth,” meaning situations in which doctors and patients talk with family members about an assisted suicide to end the physical suffering of a patient could be considered involuntary manslaughter if they followed through with the decision. Keller explains that the court had already explained why this cannot relate to the case in simple terms when he said, “there is no evidence on the record that Conrad Roy III was anything but physically healthy. There is zero evidence to suggest he was ‘coping with a terminal illness’ or nearing the end of his life through the mechanisms of age or disease. His only illness, according to the record, involved mental health problems. He also was not a ‘mature adult.’ He was an impressionable teenager. That’s why this case has nothing to do with traditional end-of-life decisions.” The ACLU and their stance have been made without any true research into how the case actually played out and the careful deliberation of the court before sentencing Michelle Carter to 15 months.

Overall, Conrad Roy’s death has come as sad and alarming news to the world. Carter’s actions cannot be forgiven and it is clear that she had a hand in the plans for Conrad to end his life. With all the evidence pointing to Carter and her situation falling into the guidelines of involuntary manslaughter, it is understandable why the court decided to sentence her to 15 months. I agree that along with jail time Michelle Carter should get some therapy and help to improve her mental state if she feels remorse for the pain that she has caused to her family and to Conrads family. It is my hope that Conrad Roy’s family find their peace one day.

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One Comment to “The Confusing Case Of Michelle Carter”

  1. This is a very sad situation! She should have taken what he was saying seriously and have sleeked out help for him. She should have gone to the family or the police and reframed from egging him into his own suicide. She definitely deserved going to jail, at her age we were all old enough to understand consequences.

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