EDITOR'S NOTE: The text messages printed in this story contain graphic language, which some readers may find disturbing.
BOSTON - Michelle Carter will go to jail for her part in the death of her boyfriend Conrad Roy III, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled.
COMMONWEALTH V. CARTER
In an opinion posted to the SJC website Wednesday morning, the SJC affirmed the ruling of Judge Lawrence Moniz that Carter can be held responsible for the death of Roy -- rejecting her appeal.
"The evidence against the defendant proved that, by her wanton or reckless conduct, she caused the victim's death by suicide. Her conviction of involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender is not legally or constitutionally infirm," The SJC wrote. "The judgment is therefore affirmed."
The Supreme Judicial Court further condemned Carter for the text messages she sent, even suggesting that she may have been responsible above and beyond the evidence Judge Moniz cited in his decision.
The case, which saw the law of involuntary manslaughter applied to suicide, could potentially set a new precedent for the way the law is applied to speech.
Michelle Carter told her friends she “heard him die,” according to court documents.
That’s part of the evidence Judge Moniz used to convict Carter and the SJC affirmed that evidence is the crux of her conviction.
"The vulnerable, confused, mentally ill, eighteen year old victim had managed to save himself once again in the midst of his latest suicide attempt, removing himself from the truck as it filled with carbon monoxide. But then in this weakened state he was badgered back into the gas-infused truck by the defendant, his girlfriend and closest, if not only, confidant in this suicidal planning, the person who had been constantly pressuring him to complete their often discussed plan, fulfill his promise to her, and finally commit suicide. And then after she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die."
Judge Moniz explained his decision to Carter in open court last year, mentioning a few legal precedents used to hold her responsible for Roy’s death. But it was the evidence contained in text messages between Carter and her friends that he said was what ultimately condemned her -- in his opinion.
Two months after Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning from sitting in his truck with a running motor pump, Carter sent a text message to a friend explaining she believed herself to be responsible for his death.
“His death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in,” Carter wrote on Sept. 15, 2014.
Both the prosecuting attorneys and Judge Moniz pointed to that statement as the moment Carter became responsible for Roy’s death.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision made by Judge Moniz, further indicating the full statement she made to friends:
"I failed [the victim] I wasn't supposed to let that happen and now I'm realizing I failed him. [H]is death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in . . . because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldn't have him live the way he was living anymore I couldn't do it I wouldn't let him."
"It is true that a conviction cannot be based solely on the defendant's extrajudicial confession," the SJC opinion notes after republishing the previous message. "The defendant's statement, however, was not uncorroborated [as she had argued.]"
According to this ruling, the corroboration of her statement is simply that Conrad Roy died. When he was found dead, the SJC writes, that corroborated her later statements that she "told him to get back in" and that she "heard him die."
"The defendant's statement was more than adequately corroborated not only by the victim's death but also by text messages exchanged with the victim encouraging him to commit suicide," The SJC wrote.
In that paragraph of the opinion, the SJC seems to indicate the text messages exchanged between Carter and Roy further implicate her in his death because of her repeated urging that he should kill himself.
"In sum, the judge was entitled to credit the defendant's statement, and the corroborating details, that the victim had in fact gotten out of the truck and that the defendant ordered him back into the truck, ultimately causing his death," the SJC wrote.
“No piece of evidence in a vacuum proves anything,” judge tells Carter’s attorney. “We have to take the whole relationship [into account].”— Kathryn Burcham (@kathrynburcham) October 4, 2018
"Carter is the first person ever convicted, anywhere, in such unusual circumstances," her attorneys argued in their appellate brief submitted to the SJC. "If this Court affirms, Massachusetts would be the only state to uphold an involuntary manslaughter conviction where an absent defendant, with words alone, encouraged another person to commit suicide."
As Moniz explained in court, Roy had conducted extensive research on his own, bought the generator and parked his truck. But according to Carter’s text, Roy got out of the truck when he started to sense the carbon monoxide poisoning.
"He literally sought fresh air," Judge Moniz said, referring to Roy's previously unsuccessful attempts to commit suicide. Moniz said Roy had shown a pattern of choosing to live rather than follow through.
If Carter’s text is to be believed, she was on the phone with him when he died, meaning she knew what was happening to him and, in Moniz’s opinion, should have done something to stop him.
Just spoke with Michelle Carter's attorney, Joseph Cataldo. He tells me they are incredibly disappointed by the SJC decision, and says they will fight any order to send Michelle to prison to serve her sentence while they file their next appeal. @boston25— Kathryn Burcham (@kathrynburcham) February 6, 2019
“Miss Carter knows – by her own admission – that Mr. Roy has followed her instructions,” Moniz said. “As she indicates in various text messages subsequently created to some of her friends, she indicates that she can hear him coughing and she can hear the loud noise of the motor.”
Moniz explained he couldn’t lean solely on one instance of Carter’s testimony and cited a number of other messages sent to other friends.
“The court notes that I looked for independent corroboration of some of the statements that Miss Carter made to make sure that there was no undue reliance on any one source of evidence,” said Moniz.
Carter’s lawyers argues while there are texts, no one knows what she said during the two phone calls @boston25— Kathryn Burcham (@kathrynburcham) October 4, 2018
In text messages dated around July 12 – the date of Roy’s suicide – Carter tells other friends she spoke with him on the phone and may have known what was going on. Messages between Carter and Roy indicate she indeed knew what he was doing.
“He called me and I heard like muffled sounds and some type of motor running and it was like that for 20 mins and he wouldn't answer. I think he killed himself,” Carter said in a message to a friend.
It was a series of messages like that, which Moniz used to convict her of manslaughter -- a decision that has been criticized by free speech advocates.
But the big question -- of whether or not a person can legally cause the suicide of another -- has already been asked and answered.
The SJC ruled on that when it first allowed her case to go to trial.
“The big question has already been answered and the question now is whether this set of facts is enough for that finding,” Suffolk University Law Professor Rosanna Cavallaro said.
Professor Cavallaro explained the indictment was upheld by the SJC, signifying the possiblity that another person could legally cause the suicide of another person.
She says this appeal will be dependent largely on whether or not the prosecutors on Carter's case proved that she was legally responsible for Roy's death.
The ACLU's Massachusetts chapter said in a statement at the time, the conviction "exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions."
Legal experts have argued the case could set a precedent in the digital age for holding people responsible for crimes simply by the things they say.
Judge Moniz pointed to Carter’s “failure to act,” alongside her statements urging Roy to follow through with his planned suicide.
The SJC, in its ruling, affirmed Moniz's decision, noting her "pressuring text messages and phone calls, preying upon well-known weaknesses, fears, anxieties and promises ... finally overcame the willpower to live of a mentally ill, vulnerable, young person, thereby coercing him to commit suicide."
The SJC ruling further highlights the messages she sent to him throughout the day as supporting evidence that she caused his death.
"I can inform you all that our next step in this matter is to file a motion to the juvenile court requesting that the stay of sentence be revoked and the jail sentence be imposed. We will be filing our motion with the court in the coming days," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said in a statement.
You can read the full ruling here.
*If you or someone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.*
BOSTON 25 NEWS SPECIAL REPORT
Message sent 9/15/14 8:24 p.m. to Friend #4:
His death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in *** because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldnt have him live the way he was living anymore I couldnt do it I wouldnt let him. And therapy didnt help him and I wanted him to go to McLean with me when I went but he would go in the other department for his issues but he didnt wanna go because he said nothing they would do or say would help him or change the way he feels. So I like started giving up because nothing I did was helping and but I should of tried harder like I should of did more and its all my fault because I could of stopped him but I fucking didnt all I had to say was I love you dont do this one more time and hed still be here and he told me he would give me signs to know he is watching over me but I havent seen any and I just idk I'm sorry about this rant I just needed to get that off my chest and its finally all sinking in
Text messages sent to and from Michelle Carter on the day of Roy's death
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:21:52 PM(UTC-4)||Thank you that's nice of you, and well I actually do have a boyfriend right now but he's going thru a tough time|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:22:44 PM(UTC-4)||Omg no way!!|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:22:45 PM(UTC-4)||Who?|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:23:55 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah haha and he lives kinda down the cape so you prob don't know him. His name is Conrad|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:29:32 PM(UTC-4)||Oooh get it|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:30:41 PM(UTC-4)||Hahhhha yeah but idk he's in a bad place right now|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:34:01 PM(UTC-4)||If you don't mind me asking what's up?|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 10:35:28 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah sure it's okay. And he's just dealt with social anxiety and depression for a while and he's been suicidal. And the past few days he's been scaring me, especially tonight because he isn't answering back😩|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/12/2014 11:01:35 PM(UTC-4)||Omg that's so awful|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 2:58:55 AM(UTC-4)||Yeah Im waiting to hear back from his mom because she doesn't know where he is either|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 10:22:36 AM(UTC-4)||Holy shit|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 10:28:47 AM(UTC-4)||Fuck|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 10:41:53 AM(UTC-4)||What|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 11:38:44 AM(UTC-4)||I just talked to his mom, they still can't find him😩|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:00:16 PM(UTC-4)||Wait that's actually concerning|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:00:19 PM(UTC-4)||How do you know him?|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:01:57 PM(UTC-4)||I met him in Florida in 2012. His aunt was good friends with my Grammie and they had cottages 2 houses down from each other in florida and we both went to visit at the same time, so they introduced us to each other. And I know, I'm going to drive down to help look|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:22:57 PM(UTC-4)||That's sick!|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:23:39 PM(UTC-4)||Haha yeah I know it's a pretty cool way to meet|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:25:04 PM(UTC-4)||That's so cool that you guys live so close|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:25:58 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah I just wish we lived close here haha. He lives 40 mins away|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:35:00 PM(UTC-4)||That's not too bad!|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:35:45 PM(UTC-4)||Ehh its okay haha|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:36:01 PM(UTC-4)||Its kinda annoying sometimes tho|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:36:19 PM(UTC-4)||I can see that!|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:38:53 PM(UTC-4)||Haha yeah but we make it work|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:41:09 PM(UTC-4)||I'm like freaking out right now tho|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:45:25 PM(UTC-4)||I'm sure he'll come back!!|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:46:07 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah, thank you :)|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:51:23 PM(UTC-4)||Sorry I'm not much help, I just don't really know you or the situation that well haha|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:52:29 PM(UTC-4)||Haha no it's okay don't worry about it! And I mean I feel like we are becoming good friends so you'll know me well soon lol|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:58:38 PM(UTC-4)||If you want I mean haha|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 12:59:52 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah haha no I love new friends|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:01:30 PM(UTC-4)||Good haha me too|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:12:52 PM(UTC-4)||😋|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:13:28 PM(UTC-4)|||
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:20:03 PM(UTC-4)||You gonna do EPE manaña?|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:20:35 PM(UTC-4)||Sí|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:20:46 PM(UTC-4)||Gracias|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:22:18 PM(UTC-4)||I'm working everyday except Friday|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 1:22:57 PM(UTC-4)||Nice haha I'm probably working everyday including Friday sooo|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:02:29 PM(UTC-4)||They still haven't found him :(|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:20:52 PM(UTC-4)||That's concerning|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:20:55 PM(UTC-4)||Did they contact the police?|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:21:05 PM(UTC-4)||Does this happen often?|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:37:49 PM(UTC-4)||Just talked to his mom. His dad called her and said police found his truck with caution tape around it. The dad was calling in when we were talking with the news so I'll let you know when she calls me back. Doesn't look good|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:43:49 PM(UTC-4)||Oh no 🙈|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 6:43:54 PM(UTC-4)||Hang in there|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #1||7/13/2014 7:01:18 PM(UTC-4)||He's dead, he committed suicide|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:24:00 PM(UTC-4)||He called me and I heard like muffled sounds and some type of motor running and it was like that for 20 mins and he wouldn't answer. I think he killed himself|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:29:28 PM(UTC-4)||I don't think so because he called u Michelle that was his way of not talking but letting you know he's okay|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:31:16 PM(UTC-4)||He would of said something tho and I heard like moaning sounds like he was in pain. And I tried calling back and he hasn't answered or anything|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:37:02 PM(UTC-4)||He told me that day he went to the store to get a generator for work, I didn't think anything of it at the time but on the phone I heard a motor running which I think was the generator. I just looked it up online and it said they are dangerous and fatal because they give off carbon monoxide. You can die within 20 mins with that thing, I think he poisioned himself and its all my fault I'm so stupid I should have known that's what he was doing I'm so fucking stupid I don't even know what to do|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:52:16 PM(UTC-4)||It's not your fault at all Michelle don't let him make you think that|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:52:21 PM(UTC-4)||Think positively|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 9:57:54 PM(UTC-4)||I just feel so helpless right now like his mom isn't answering, he's not answering. I just don't know what to think or do, I can't accept the fact that he may be gone and I could have prevented it|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/12/2014 10:23:54 PM(UTC-4)||You couldn't have prevented it if it happened Michelle|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/13/2014 10:36:45 AM(UTC-4)||I'm going to help look for him, his mom just called me panicking|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #2||7/13/2014 7:04:08 PM(UTC-4)||He's dead, he committed suicide|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:37:13 PM(UTC-4)||Love you to the moon and back. You are so very special to me and I promise to do anythig you need to get through this. You are amazing|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:39:32 PM(UTC-4)||I love you too ____, thank you so much for everything. You mean a lot to me and I appreciate you so much. You're the amazing one.|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:40:07 PM(UTC-4)||You're so strong miche you can get thru this|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:40:46 PM(UTC-4)||God does everything for a reason. He believes in you or he wouldn't be putting you through all of this. He has a greater plan for you that you just haven't realized yet|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:43:06 PM(UTC-4)||That's very wise and so nice of you to say, thank you. I'd like to believe that as well. I just had it all planned out with Conrad. Now I have to do something different, maybe something better, I just don't think that that's possible. He was my person you know?|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:47:54 PM(UTC-4)||I know and you have to remember that we are so young still too. Conrad will always have a special place in your heart. I thought me and brad Harrington were gunna get married one day and look at me now.. With the boy I am POSITIVE will be my husband. Everything will work out Michelle and I am so devastated for you to have lost such a good friend. But he was deeply hurting and there was nothing you could have said or done|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:51:11 PM(UTC-4)||Yeah but I had thhe same feeling with Conrad that you have with Brandon. We both knew we were gonna get married, I didn't even have to tell him, he knew. We talked about it and how our life was gonna be in 20 years. And there was many things I could have said and done differently. I'm never gonna forgive myself|
|From: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:53:16 PM(UTC-4)||Michelle he had a mental illness. There is nothing you could have done. Nothing should ever be so bad that you want to kill yourself..it is a psychological disorder and nothing you could have said would have changed it. His soul was misguided and he was amazing but there was nothing you could have done|
|To: 0000000000 Friend #3||7/20/2014 11:59:21 PM(UTC-4)||He told me he was gonna do it soon and stuff, I just never believed him because every night when he said he was gonna do it, he didn't. So that night when he actually did it I couldn't believe it. I was talking to him on the phone when he killed himself Liv, I heard him die. I just wish I got him more help, I wish I would of called someone to stop him that night. He would of probably did it a different night but at least I would of got more time with him. At the end of the day, I just really miss him. He was who I talked to until 3 am, and now he's just gone. But his mom called me today, she found a suicide letter he wrote to me. He didn't write one to anyone else. His mom said I was the most important person in his life so to know that just means so much to me|
|7/11/2014 11:46:37 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Do you think he did it?|
|7/12/2014 1:31:06 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||His mom hasn't answered back yet|
|7/12/2014 8:02:12 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Sam he just called me and there was a loud noise like a motor and I heard moaning like someone was in pain and he wouldn't answer when I said his name I stayed on the phone for like 20 mins and that's all I heard|
|7/12/2014 8:25:34 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||I think he just killed himself|
|7/12/2014 9:48:14 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||I'm so fucking stupid! The generator he got the other day, I think that was the noise I heard. I just looked it up, they emit carbon monoxide. I think he poisoned himself with it and its all my fault because I should of knew he was gonna do that and I should of stopped him. I keep trying to call and there's no answer. I think he did it. I don't even no what to do right now|
|7/13/2014 1:36:48 PM(UTC-4)||From: 0000000000 Friend #4||I'm working I'm sory u couldn't answer!|
|7/13/2014 1:37:23 PM(UTC-4)||From: 0000000000 Friend #4||He didn't kill himself|
|7/13/2014 1:41:18 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Oh sorry I didn't know you had work today, but it's okay. And his mom called me this morning, I'm leaving to go help look for him. How do you know he didn't?|
|7/13/2014 3:35:43 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Can We do something tonight to get my mind off it|
|7/13/2014 5:48:45 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Or do u have the cow?|
|7/13/2014 6:39:12 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Just talked to his mom. His dad called her and said police found his truck with caution tape around it. The dad was calling in when we were talking with the news so I'll let you know when she calls me back. Doesn't look good|
|7/13/2014 7:01:02 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Just talked to his sister. He's dead, he committed suicide|
|7/13/2014 10:04:07 PM(UTC-4)||From: 0000000000 Friend#4||Michelle I'm sorry. I honestly don't know what to say.|
|7/13/2014 10:04:44 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||I don't either|
|7/13/2014 10:06:53 PM(UTC-4)||From: 0000000000 Friend #4||Is it for sure|
|7/13/2014 10:07:25 PM(UTC-4)||To: 00000000000 Friend #4||Yeah, his sister called me and told me|
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