Last month, a Massachusetts court found a teenage girl guilty of involuntary manslaughter after it was discovered that she encouraged and pressured her boyfriend to follow through on his desire to commit suicide back in 2014. The evidence against her was damning; most of their communication happened via text, giving the prosecution plenty of material to draw upon. This case also raises the question of governmental overreach and individual responsibility; is it ethical to hold people accountable for someone else’s suicide?
The Case in Question
In 2014, 17-year-old Michelle Carter encouraged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to stop hemming and hawing and commit suicide if he was so unhappy. If that sounds callous, it’s because it is. She didn’t try to find him help or alert his parents that he was suicidal. Instead, she helped him research suicide methods and texted him to keep going even though he expressed fear and regret during the act. Through her coaching, Roy died after filling his car with carbon monoxide. Law enforcement believes she was motivated by a desire to be perceived as the pitiable and grieving girlfriend.
After a lengthy trial, Carter was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Typically, it must be proven that (1) the defendant intended to commit a criminal act, (2) the intended act was wanton or reckless, and (3) the act directly caused the victim’s death.
Though Carter is no sympathetic figure, her case sheds light on a legal gray area that must be explored. It is beyond clear that she encouraged her boyfriend to follow through with suicide, but she was not at the scene and did not physically do anything to cause his death. Where do we draw the line? For example, if someone is mean to someone else and they commit suicide after being bullied, is the bully responsible for their death? Though we should all be careful of what we say to others, it would be a terrifying reality if any off-hand comment we made could potentially indict us in cases of assault, suicide, or wrongful death.
Getting the Help You Need
If you have been charged with a crime, it is crucial that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Thomas Whitney Attorney at Law has been providing exceptional and effective criminal defense for clients in and around Amherst for 40 years. Contact our firm today at (413) 256-6234 to schedule a consultation with an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.