A bizarre case has gripped Americans for almost a year. It is bound to set new legal precedents with regards to teen cellphone texting and the definitions of cyber-bullying and cyber free speech.
It has already caused some to observe that a cellphone in the hands of a reckless teen is as dangerous as a loaded gun.
Michelle Carter, 18, faces 20 years’ imprisonment for ‘encouraging’ her boyfriend to commit suicide in 2015. She was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Juvenile Court in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
For reasons unknown, over the course of a week, Carter pressured her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself. Via cellphone, she belittled his fears and researched methods of
suicide for him.
Carter’s lawyers say she was practising her right to free speech.
At the 2015 indictment, those present heard that the star-crossed lovers had met online. For over a week in July last year, Carter and Roy exchanged hundreds of cellphone messages in which Carter insisted that his consistent depression would be over if he was dead.
“You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain,” she told him in one message. “It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.” Later, frustrated by his inaction, she texted: “You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do.”
After Roy seemed unable to plan a death by carbon monoxide poisoning, Carter texted: “I’d try… hanging. Hanging is painless and take[s] like a second if you do it right.”
The day of Roy’s death – 12 July 2015 – he and Carter exchanged multiple texts.
“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it,” Carter said, telling him she didn’t understand why he was hesitating. She was also busy texting other people, telling them that she thought Roy was missing.
On the night of 12 July 2015, Roy went through with the suicide, using a gas-powered water pump. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the cab of his pickup truck. He was on the phone texting and talking with Carter the entire time, she told another friend via SMS.
“Like, honestly, I could have stopped it,” Carter said. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because the carbon monoxide was working. I told him to get back in.”
Carter’s lawyers have now asked the Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in on a previous appeal of a judge’s refusal to dismiss the manslaughter charge. The judge in question had, in September 2015, rejected a defence motion to dismiss the charge, citing records that Carter was on the phone with Roy for about 45 minutes while he was inhaling carbon monoxide, heard him moaning and did not call 911. The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to hear Carter’s appeal in May.
Category: Autumn 2016