BOSTON, June 16 (Reuters) ― A Massachusetts judge found a young woman guilty of manslaughter on Friday for a series of text messages to her boyfriend urging him to kill himself in 2014.
Michelle Carter, a teen at the time of the death and now 20, cried and shook as Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the series of texts and phone calls urging her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to kill himself.
Roy killed himself by running a generator in his truck as he sat in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, about 60 miles (96 km) south of Boston.
Moniz focused on Carter’s instructions to Roy to get back into his truck when he was first overcome by fumes spewed by a generator.
“In instructing Mr. Roy to get back in the truck constituted wanton and reckless conduct by Ms. Carter, creating a situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to Mr. Roy,” Moniz told the court.
The couple were 30 miles (48 km) apart at the time of Roy’s death, a fact that defense attorneys emphasized during the week-long trial. The trial marked the first time that prosecutors in the state have sought such a stiff charge in a case based on text messages.
Carter opted against a jury trial, leaving her fate in Moniz’s hands. She could face up to 20 years in prison for the crime.
During the trial, the judge heard extensive readings of text-message exchanges between Carter and Roy, both of whom struggled with emotional problems.
Dozens of times, the messages urged Roy to kill himself, with one reading: “No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”
Bristol County prosecutor Maryclare Flynn portrayed Carter as a manipulative person who enjoyed her control over the teen and hoped to win sympathy for herself among her high school friends as a result of Roy’s death.
Defense attorney Joseph Cataldo portrayed Carter as equally emotionally vulnerable and not in full control of her actions because of prescription psychiatric medication that left her with the delusion that she could help Roy by urging his death.
They noted that Roy attempted suicide multiple times before his death in July 2014. Moniz said that, and the fact that Roy could have tried again, was immaterial.
That Roy may have died by suicide at a different time “is of no consequence to this court’s deliberations,” Moniz said.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney and Frances Kerry)