'Just do it, babe' - Teenager to stand trial after sending texts encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself
An American teenager who allegedly urged her boyfriend to kill himself via text messages will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, a court has ruled.
Conrad Roy III (18) died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a car park in Massachusetts in 2014.
Michelle Carter (then 17) reportedly sent him dozens of messages encouraging him to follow through on his plans to die by suicide, including advising him to “get back in” a truck that he had filled with carbon monoxide fumes using a water hose.
“I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote in one message.
“When are you going to do it?” she asked.
Other texts included: “If you don’t do it tonight, you’re going to be miserable”, “You can’t think about it, you just have to do it” and “Tonight is the night, it’s now or never.”
A Massachusetts court heard that after Mr Roy described his plans to kill himself on a Saturday night, she responded: “Today is only Monday.”
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Friday that a grand jury had probable cause to indict Carter in Mr Roy’s death.
The court said Carter engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion”, and her instruction to “get back in” the truck in order to poison himself was a “direct, causal link” to his death.
“In sum, we conclude that there was probable cause to show that the coercive quality of the defendant’s verbal conduct overwhelmed whatever willpower the 18-year-old victim had to cope with his depression, and that but for the defendant’s admonishments, pressure and instructions, the victim would not have gotten back into the truck and poisoned himself to death,” Justice Robert Cordy wrote for the court in the unanimous ruling.
Carter had met Mr Roy in Florida two years earlier, and by the time of his death, they hadn’t met in person in over a year. Their relationship was built largely on texts and online messages.
When Mr Roy expressed doubts about his plans, Carter told him: “You’re finally going to be happy in heaven” and added that he would be “free”.
“It can’t even wait till tonight,” she said.
Later on the same day, Mr Roy attempted to poison himself with carbon monoxide in his truck, but when he became frightened he got out of the vehicle and called Carter.
Records show their phones had been connected for 47 minutes, during which time Carter told him to “get back in” the truck.
Mr Roy followed her instructions, and died that evening.
After his death, Carter sent a number of messages to her friends suggesting she didn’t know what had happened to her boyfriend, including a message to his sister that read: “Do you know where your brother is?”
Her lawyer Joseph Cataldo argued that her texts were free speech protected by the First Amendment, and cited a previous suicide attempt by Mr Roy.
Mr Cataldo also argued that Carter should not have been charged with manslaughter because Massachusetts does not have a law against encouraging or assisting suicide.