The highest court in Massachusetts has decided to hear the appeal of a local woman convicted of using text messages to convince a teenager to kill himself.
Last year, Michelle Carter waived her right to a jury trial. Judge Lawrence Moniz found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III.
The Plainville woman was given a sentence of 2-and-a-half years in the Bristol County House of Correction, with 15 months to be served, and the balance suspended with probation for five years.
Text messages that convicted Michelle Carter
Prosecutors said text messages from Carter led Roy to take his own life. In court, prosecutors showed a series of text messages from 2014 which showed Carter encouraging Roy to kill himself.
"You're so hesitant because you keep overthinking it and pushing it off. You just need to do it Conrad. The more you push it off, the more it will eat at you."
"You're ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you bee free and happy. No more pushing it off, no more waiting."
In one, she tells Roy to get back inside his truck as it filled with carbon monoxide fumes.
Roy was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning hours later in the truck at a local shopping plaza.
The issue at hand now -- are words alone enough to send a person to prison for manslaughter? And when does typing a message on a phone or computer become a crime?
Carter's defense - Joseph Cataldo and Cory Madera - appealed the verdict, claiming she is the first person convicted of manslaughter in a suicide without giving the victim a weapon, or being present when they did. They want the Supreme Judicial Court to decide if under Massachusetts law, words are enough to commit the crime of involuntary manslaughter.
Her defense team says the case "presents novel questions of constitutional and criminal law."
In the appeal request, the defense also expressed how Judge Moniz failed to evaluate the evidence under a 'reasonable juvenile' standard.
"Particularly where a manslaughter conviction relies on a juvenile's failure to act, despite a duty of reasonable care, the defendant should be judged based on the dangers (if any) that a reasonable juvenile would discern and the actions (if any) that such juvenile would take. In evaluating the evidence concerning 17-year-old Carter, however, the trial judge refused to apply a "reasonable juvenile" standard and failed to consider that, like Roy, Carter was an immature adolescent who struggled with mental health issues."
On March 14, the SJC agreed to hear the appeal.
Carter's defense team could appeal to a federal court if the SJC does not rule in their favor.
Cox Media Group