The highest court in Massachusetts has been asked to dismiss an involuntary manslaughter case against a teenage girl accused of sending her boyfriend dozens of text messages encouraging him to kill himself.
Michelle Carter’s appeal will be heard Thursday. Carter is awaiting trial in the death of Conrad Roy III, who died by carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.
When 18-year-old Roy’s body was found in his car parked behind a Kmart, police accessed his cell phone, where they found thousands of text messages between the couple.
"Michelle not only encouraged Conrad to take his own life, she questioned him repeatedly as to when and why he hadn't done it yet, right up to the point of when his final text was sent to her on Saturday evening, July 12, 2014," police wrote after reviewing the messages.
Justices must weigh the defense’s argument that the text messages were legally protected speech.
Prosecutors argued that Carter committed manslaughter when she urged Roy to "just do it" and told him to get back in his truck when he became frightened that the plan to poison himself with carbon monoxide was working.
Carter’s lawyers, on the other hand, contend her actions do not meet the legal definition of manslaughter.
The court must decide whether Carter’s texts qualify as reckless actions that led to a predictable loss of life, a legal requirement for an involuntary manslaughter conviction, according to MassLive.com. Unlike 40 other states, Massachusetts has no specific law against assisted suicide.
Carter's lawyer claims Carter’s texts show that she repeatedly tried to talk Roy out of taking his own life and only began to support the plan when it became clear he would not change his mind.
Prosecutors point to the messages where police say Carter had the opportunity to help Roy when he expressed the fear he felt over leaving his family, but instead pushed him not to worry about it.
"When he actually started to carry out the act, he got scared again and exited his truck," read the court documents. "But instead of telling him to stay out of the truck and turn off the generator Carter told him to 'get back in.'"
She could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Below are the text messages included in court filings, with the messages cited by Carter’s lawyer first, followed by those cited by prosecutors:
June 29, 2014:
Carter: "But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don't think it would but I'm telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life"
Carter: "Part of me wants you to try something and fail just so you can get help"
Roy: "It doesn't help. trust me"
Carter: "So what are you gonna do then? Keep being all talk and no action and everyday go thru saying how badly you wanna kill yourself? Or are you gonna try to get better?"
Roy: "I can't get better I already made my decision."
July 7, 2014:
Roy: "if you were in my position. honestly what would you do"
Carter: "I would get help. That's just me tho. When I have a serious problem like that, my first instinct is to get help because I know I can't do it on my own"
Roy: "Well it's too late I already gave up."
Between July 6, 2014, and July 12, 2014:
Carter: "Always smile, and yeah, you have to just do it. You have everything you need. There is no way you can fail. Tonight is the night. It's now or never."
Carter: "(D)on't be scared. You already made this decision and if you don't do it tonight you're gonna be thinking about it all the time and stuff all the rest of your life and be miserable.
You're finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. No more bad thoughts and worries. You'll be free."
Carter: "I just want to make sure you're being serious. Like I know you are, but I don't know. You always say you're gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing."
Carter: "When are you gonna do it? Stop ignoring the question"
Carter: "You can't keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did the last time and not think about it and just do it, babe. You can't keep doing this every day.
Roy: "I do want to but I'm like freaking for my family I guess. I don't know."
Carter: "Conrad, I told you I'll take care of them. Everyone will take care of them to make sure they won't be alone and people will help them get through it. We talked about this and they will be okay and accept it. People who commit suicide don't think this much. They just could do it."