A Massachusetts woman could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on Thursday for goading her teenage boyfriend into suicide with a series of text messages in 2014.
Michelle Carter, 20, of Plainville was found guilty in June of involuntary manslaughter for urging her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to kill himself in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, about 60 miles (100 km) south of Boston.
The verdict, which marked the first time in the state a person had been found guilty of manslaughter only for words, was handed down by Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz after Carter opted against a jury trial. Moniz also is responsible for sentencing.
The trial drew intense interest in the area. It both highlighted the dangers of cyber bullying and raised concerns among civil liberties advocates who argued that prosecutors and the judge overreached by finding Carter guilty for her speech.
Moniz focused on messages she sent to Roy as he sat in his truck, which was filling with carbon monoxide from a generator he had hooked up to it. Roy, of Mattapoisett, briefly got out of the vehicle after he began to be overwhelmed by the fumes but returned after a message from Carter urging him to “get back in.”
Both Roy and Carter had suffered emotional problems. Roy had previously attempted suicide and Carter had taken psychiatric medication, according to trial testimony. Carter’s lawyers had argued that she was involuntarily intoxicated by medication while messaging Roy and not in full control of her actions.
Roy’s aunt, Kim Bozzi, in a statement published by the Boston Herald, urged Moniz to impose the maximum penalty.
“She should be kept far away from society,” the newspaper quoted Bozzi as saying. “Take away the spotlight she so desperately craves.”
Carter’s attorneys have not said if they will appeal the verdict. Some legal analysts suggested that Moniz may give a lighter sentence on the grounds that doing so is less likely to lead to an appeal.