TAUNTON, Mass. - Michelle Carter, the woman accused of encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself via text messages has waived her right to a jury trial just as jury selection was set to begin Monday morning.
Carter's decision Monday as a judge was explaining her rights means the judge will hear the testimony and will issue the verdict.
This is a high-profile case in a public sense, but to the legal world, it is a potentially groundbreaking one. There is no law in Massachusetts that says verbal encouragement of suicide is a crime, but a jury could, in effect, make one.
If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Michelle Carter, now 20 years old, could face up to 20 years in prison.
Attorney Peter Ellikan is a Defense Attorney and Spokesperson for the Massachusetts Bar Association. He says lawyers and legal scholars are paying attention to this case for one main reason.
“At the moment, there's really no law on the books in Massachusetts about whether somebody can encourage somebody to commit suicide or not,” said Ellikan.
Prosecutors say that in 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy and Carter were in a relationship and that she eventually sent him text messages supporting his plan to commit suicide.
One of the allegations involves Carter communicating with Roy as he was trying to asphyxiate himself with vehicle exhaust.
“He allegedly walked out of the car where he was committing suicide, was having second thoughts about it... Was scared about the whole thing... And she allegedly encouraged him to step back in,” said Ellikan.
Carter's attorneys will likely argue the Plainville woman broke no law and was exercising her right to free speech. Plus, she was a juvenile at the time.
But Ellikan says the toughest task facing the defense is to change the perception of Michelle Carter.
“I think the main challenge for the defense is to make this person, so unlikable in the public, to somehow show a human side to her and show something about her that is, indeed, likable,” said Ellikan.
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