BOSTON - Conrad Roy III took his own life in 2014 after his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, taunted him with texts and phone calls.
Roy's family quickly learned the state had no specific law against what Carter did, and they are now working with lawmakers to change that.
The legislation, called Conrad's Law, would make it a crime to coerce someone into taking their own life and impose a penalty of up to five years in prison. Michelle Carter ended up being convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
"Involuntary manslaughter is the wrong and inappropriate charge and therefore that is why they had so many appeals," Senator Barry Finegold (D-Andover) said. Carter's attorneys appealed to the state's Supreme Judicial Court and, after her conviction was affirmed, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in July. Carter is currently serving her 15-month sentence.
Roy's mother, Lynn Roy, testified Tuesday in front of the joint Judiciary Committee in support of the law.
"I can tell you from personal experience, the pain and emptiness never, never really ends," said an emotional Lynn Roy as she spoke to state lawmakers about her son. "He was so intelligent, he was so kind, he was so established. There is no doubt that my son struggled with anxiety and depression, but he did not deserve to be coerced by another individual."
Roy said in a statement that Conrad's Law is not about seeking justice, its aimed at "preventing this from happening again to others who are struggling with mental illness and suicidal ideation." "If this law is successful in saving one life, then all of this work will be clearly worth it. The senator behind the bill was crushed when he heard about the BC student who prosecutors say killed himself after his girlfriend bullied him into it."
Roy was referring to the October indictment of a former Boston College student, 21-year-old Inyoung You, on involuntary manslaughter charges, in connection with the suicide death of her boyfriend, 22-year-old Alexander Urtula.
Urtala, who died by suicide just hours before he was set to walk at his May graduation, received over 47,000 text messages sent by You in the two months leading up to his death, including texts telling Urtala to "Go kill yourself," or "Just die," according to the indictment. Finegold said of the recent case, "It's hard to understand that something like this is happening so soon after what happened to Conrad Roy."
The American Civil Liberties Union is monitoring the legislation for any potential First Amendment issues.
"I can't call the police and put fictitious names about someone breaking into my house," Finegold said. "There are limits on free speech"
Conrad Roy's mother hopes this law would prevent other families from the heartache she's had to endure.
"If this law can save one life, one soul, one family from the harshest pain, then we have all succeeded," she said.
Mass. is just one of eight states that doesn't already have a law criminalizing suicide coercion.
The joint committee has until mid-February to decide about moving the bill forward and the legislators supporting it believe they can have the law in place by spring, pending the governor's signature.
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