TAUNTON, Mass. - A Massachusetts woman accused of encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide via text messages, waived her right to a jury trial Monday in a Bristol County courtroom.
Michelle Carter, now 20, opted to allow the judge to hear the testimony and decide her fate on an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.
Roy was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in his pick-up truck in Fairhaven, Conn., in July of 2014.
Carter, then 17, had sent him numerous text messages, including, “If you want it as bad as you say you do it’s time to do it today,” and “When are you going to do it?”
This is a high-profile case in a public sense, but to the legal world, it is a potentially groundbreaking one. There is no law in Massachusetts that says verbal encouragement of suicide is a crime.
Attorney Peter Ellikan is a Defense Attorney and Spokesperson for the Massachusetts Bar Association. He said lawyers and legal scholars are paying attention to this case for one main reason.
“At the moment, there's really no law on the books in Massachusetts about whether somebody can encourage somebody to commit suicide or not,” Ellikan said.
Prosecutors said that at the time of his death in 2014, the 18-year-old Roy and Carter were in a relationship and that she eventually sent him text messages supporting his plan to commit suicide.
One of the allegations involves Carter communicating with Roy as he was trying to asphyxiate himself with vehicle exhaust.
“He allegedly walked out of the car where he was committing suicide, was having second thoughts about it ... Was scared about the whole thing ... And she allegedly encouraged him to step back in,” Ellikan said.
Carter's attorneys will likely argue the Plainville woman broke no law and was exercising her right to free speech. Plus, she was a juvenile, just 17, at the time.
But Ellikan says the toughest task facing the defense is to change the perception of Michelle Carter.
“I think the main challenge for the defense is to make this person, so unlikable in the public, to somehow show a human side to her and show something about her that is, indeed, likable.”
If convicted on the charge, Carter could face up to 20 years in prison.