BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the conviction of Michelle Carter, the young woman found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for sending text messages to her suicidal boyfriend urging him to kill himself.
“The evidence against the defendant proved that, by her wanton or reckless conduct, she caused the victim’s death by suicide,” the Supreme Court ruled.
The Plainville woman was convicted in June 2017 in Conrad Roy’s 2014 death and later was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Roy’s aunt, Becki Maki, says it’s a relief to know the woman convicted of causing her nephew’s suicide is still guilty, according to the SJC.
“To be honest, I don’t think there’s ever going to be closure,” said Maki. “We’ll never get him back.”
A judge found that Carter caused Roy’s death when she told him to “get back in” his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide in Fairhaven.
“And then after she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die,” Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling.
Carter’s attorneys said in court documents that the case would set precedent “for who may be prosecuted for encouraging suicide with words alone.” Carter was 17 when Roy died.
Her case drew international attention due to its thorny legal questions and the insistent tone of Carter’s text messages to Roy.
“I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready — just do it babe,” Carter wrote in one message.
“You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die,” she wrote in another.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said in a statement that his office is “very pleased” with the court’s decision.
“This case is a tragedy for all of the people impacted by this case,” Quinn said. “However, as the court found in two separate decisions, her conduct was wanton and reckless, and caused the death of Conrad Roy.”
Carter and Roy both lived in Massachusetts but met in Florida in 2012 while both were on vacation with their families. Their relationship consisted mainly of texting and other electronic communications. Both teens struggled with depression. Carter had also been treated for anorexia, and Roy had made earlier suicide attempts.
After Wednesday’s ruling, Carter’s lawyers say they continue to believe Carter didn’t cause Roy’s death. They say they will examine all legal options, including a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I respectfully but completely disagree with today’s ruling,” attorney Joe Cataldo told WBZ-TV. “We will be weighing all our legal options including further appellate review.”
WBZ legal expert Phil Tracy says this case sets a precedent that actions through texting and social media have consequences. “Encouraging somebody to commit suicide was morally, ethically, and now legally wrong,” Tracy said. “Words can come back to haunt you and words can kill.”
It’s a message Conrad Roy’s family wants to spread, too.
“When someone is going through a hard time, you don’t convince them to kill themselves, you get them help,” Becki Maki said.
Roy’s aunt says a conviction and jail time for Michelle Carter isn’t a win for her family but could help kids understand the serious consequences of bullying.
“There’s no winners in this at all. There’s no happiness. There’s no outcome that anyone would be glad for. I feel for her family,” Maki said.
Carter was granted a stay in serving her sentence while the appeals process worked its way through the courts. Prosecutors now plan to file a motion in juvenile court this week to have the stay revoked and the jail sentence imposed.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)