BOSTON — As the woman who pressured her boyfriend into committing suicide walks free, the push to pass legislation to criminalize this type of crime picks up traction.
Michelle Carter, who made international headlines in the unprecedented texting-suicide case, walked free on Jan. 23, 2020 after serving 11 months in jail. Sentenced to 15 months at the Bristol County jail in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Carter shaved off more than three months on her sentence due to her good behavior behind bars.
For nearly six years, the Roy family has mourned the loss of Conrad Roy III, Carter’s late boyfriend. The painful saga continued for the family as they watched Carter go home to her family.
Just six months shy of the anniversary of Conrad’s death, there is picked up pressure toward lawmakers to pass Conrad’s Law, a proposed bill which would make coerced suicide a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
State Senator Barry Finegold says he’s doing everything he can to make sure Massachusetts joins the 42 other states that have created suicide-coercion legislation.
“People need to know [that] if you say to someone ‘kill yourself’ and you know they have a mental state that they are suicidal, you could be prosecuted,” said Finegold.
Finegold was pivotal in introducing the bill this past summer and has now been lobbying the state’s judiciary committee, pointing to rising teen suicide rates.
According to a recent medical study, the suicide rate for young people has increased to its highest point since 2000.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows suicide in the United States has been climbing for over a decade, where it was 33% higher in 2017 than it was in 1999.
In 2017, there were 682 suicides in Massachusetts, a death toll higher than those connected to automobile crashes and homicides combined.
However, despite national suicide statistics, Massachusetts has one of the lowest suicide rates in the nation, according to the state department of public health.
Some experts attribute that to the state’s tough gun control laws, access to emergency and mental health care, and years of suicide prevention efforts assisted by more than $4 million in annual state spending.
“There is way too much bullying going on with cell phones and there’s way too much coercion," said Finegold. “Too many people are going way over the line and they’ve got to watch what they’re saying and what they’re doing on their cell phones.”
Feingold points to a recent case where a former Boston College student is accused of relentlessly texting her boyfriend, ultimately leading up to his suicide last May. He highlights how that case is a clear indication of how the scenario affecting those at risk of suicide isn’t clearly spelled out in state legislation.
“I never expected there’d be another case similar to the Michelle Carter case so soon,” said Feingold. “It’s happened way too close to what happened before and it’s very concerning.”
Now, Conrad Roy’s mother says its time to focus on the positives in her life coping by finding ways to help others who may be experiencing what her family has. Passing Conrad’s Law is a top priority for her and her family.
Feingold says he’s hopeful it will turn out favorably in the judiciary committee as soon as next month. The bill could then potentially move forward for a vote.
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