BOSTON (CBS) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says the judge got it wrong Friday when he convicted Michelle Carter of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of Conrad Roy.
She sent Roy a barrage of text messages encouraging him to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. The ACLU claimed the conviction “exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections.”
But, WBZ-TV legal analyst Harry Manion wasn’t surprised by the verdict.
“The court made it very clear that Carter’s conduct on the day Roy died turned her immoral, despicable conduct, inhuman conduct, into criminal manslaughter,” he said.
Judge Lawrence Moniz relied on two legal theories of criminal responsibility, according to Manion, action by the defendant and her failure to act.
“She knew that he was sitting in a toxic car… and he exited that vehicle and she instructed him to get back into that vehicle knowing full well that it was a toxic environment that could easily – the judge said highly probably – would lead to Mr. Roy’s death,” Manion said. “So that is action, not just texting, not just psychobabble, but that it action by the defendant and the court pinned its verdict on that.”
“She knew that he would not die instantaneously. Carbon monoxide poisoning, even lay people know, doesn’t happen in one minute, it takes some time for your body to be overcome by the poison. The judge said you had at least 15 minutes to do something and your failure to act is also a ground for me finding you guilty of involuntary manslaughter.”
Manion agreed that it was a very controversial verdict.
“It will obviously go up to the Supreme Judicial Court on the facts of this case,” he said. “I would predict that the SJC will affirm this verdict a year-and-a-half from now.”
But was it a mistake for Carter and her legal team to go with a judge trial instead of a jury?
“No, I think a jury would have found those thousands of texts just absolutely reprehensible. I can’t image parents sitting on that jury and not finding her guilty. I think they made the best call they can. I think they presented the best defense they possible could. I find no fault at all in the system. I think justice was done today,” Manion said.
He also noted that sentencing will be difficult. Carter now faces anywhere from probation up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced August 3.
“This is going to be very hard for this judge to shake out how much of the death was attributable to Roy and his own proclivities, his own illnesses. How much is attributable to her. What kind of message the court wants to send to anyone else contemplating this kind of behavior,” Manion said.
“It’s going to be a very complex sentencing. I do think she’ll get jail time.”