Teen texting manslaughter verdict could face a legal challenge

Casey Dawson
August 4, 2017

An expert psychiatrist, quoted by the defence, had argued that the decision of the anti-depressant Prozac by the young woman for several months had "intoxicated", resulting in her delusions megalomaniacs the incentive to influence Conrad Roy.

They spoke before the sentencing of Michelle Carter, who faces up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Roy to kill himself in 2014.

In dozens of text messages, Carter had urged Roy to follow through on his talk of taking his own life. Hundreds of her text messages were presented as evidence over six days of testimony in June convinced a MA judge of her guilt.

Judge Lawrence Moniz, who presided over the blockbuster trial, sentenced Carter to 2.5 years in state prison, ordering her to serve 15 months and suspending the balance to August 1 2022.

Carter was 17 when the 18-year-old Roy was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2014.

Roy drove his truck to a Kmart parking lot and spoke to Carter while the vehicle filled with fumes.

In statements read in court before the sentencing, Roy's family asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. She used poor judgment. They confided in each other about his 2012 suicide attempt and her struggles with an eating disorder.

"How could Michelle Carter behave so viciously and encourage my son to end his life?" he asked.

"Good because it's time, babe", Carter responded.

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Carter's defense attorney, Joseph Cataldo, countered with a request for a sentence of five years supervised probation with conditions including mental-health counseling.

UPDATE 1:30PM: Michelle Carter arrived at the courthouse in Taunton, MA and went through the security metal detectors.

In his explanation, the judge reminded parties that the case was in a juvenile court and the court had a responsibility to balance rehabilitation and punishment for the juvenile.

Because Roy and Carter were teens at the time of Roy's death, another added layer of irrational thinking is in play, Gertner said.

The judge said during Carter's conviction that she admitted in texts that she did nothing "She did not call the police or Mr. Roy's family" after hearing his last breaths during a phone call, the judge said.

Moniz allowed Carter to return home and she won't be jailed until her appeals are exhausted. He also said she was hoping to get her broker's license and become a real estate agent.

The judge granted Carter a stay of her sentence during the appeals process, meaning she won't report to prison until all her state appeals are exhausted. She called no one.

"While Mr. Roy's death is truly devastating, it is not a reason to stretch the boundaries of our criminal laws or abandon the protections of our constitution", said Matthew Segal, the group's legal director. "Carter may not be innocent in a moral or philosophical sense, but she was wrongfully convicted". The belief that she had ordered him to get back into his truck was based on a text that Carter sent to another friend three months after the death.

The case - which could prompt the drawing up of new laws to deal with the behavior highlighted in the trial - has been closely watched by legal analysts.

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