If you happen to read the texts sent between 17 year-old Michelle Carter and 18 year-old Conrad Roy on the night of July 13, 2014, you would probably think that Carter was forcing her then-boyfriend into committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
At least that’s what the prosecution, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, is trying to prove throughout Carter’s trial. She was indicted on February 5, 2015, after a lengthy investigation found she “strongly influenced” Roy’s decision to kill himself.
While sitting in his car behind a K-Mart in Fairhaven, about 60 miles south of Boston, Roy repeatedly told Carter that he was scared and didn’t want to leave his family.
Carter responded through text messaging (taken from the New Bedford Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office), “You’re not joking about this or bulls******* me, right?…I just want to make sure you’re being serious. Like, I know you are, but I don’t know. You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing.”
Later, Carter sent him a text stating, “You just need to do it…The more you push it off, the more it will eat at you. You’re ready and prepared. All you need to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”
In a police report, Fairhaven police Detective Scott Gordon wrote, “Carter not only encouraged Roy to take his own life, she questioned him repeatedly as to when and why he hadn’t done it yet, right up to the point of when his final text was sent to her.”
Gordon also stated, “When he actually started to carry out the act, he got scared again and exited his truck but instead of telling him to stay out of the truck and turn off the generator, Carter told him to ‘get back in.'”
It will be extremely difficult, however, to prove that a person 30 miles away can be convicted with committing manslaughter by text. Massachusetts has no statute criminalizing assisted suicide, although 40 other states do. It can, however, prohibit it under common law.
Michelle Carter is charged as a youthful offender since she was 17 at the time of Roy’s death, but she could still face punishment as an adult—up to 20 years—if convicted. She is currently free on $2,500 bond.
Lawmakers need to take this type of harassment and persuasion more seriously, whether it is done over the Internet, through text messages, or even in person. If Carter truly loved Roy as a significant other—or even as a human being—she would have realized that someone in that sort of mental state needed help rather than being pushed to do something he or she might have truly not wanted to do.
Our judicial system needs to understand that harassing someone into committing suicide through texts is quite similar to Carter personally turning the generator on for Roy and keeping him trapped in his car.