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Free Minds & Free Markets

Teen Found Guilty of Manslaughter for Texting Suicidal Boyfriend

The law should not treat words as violence.

Nate SteinerNate SteinerOn the night of July 12, 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III killed himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His 17-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Carter, was miles away in Plainville. (*) Yet today Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Roy's death. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Why? Because Carter had repeatedly texted Roy prior to his death, "you just need to do it." Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz declared this illegal, even though there is no law in Massachusetts against encouraging suicide.

This was a bench trial, so the judge rather than a jury determined the verdict. His ruling threatens the very core of how our legal system approaches speech.

The law has traditionally treated some sorts of speech, such as defamation, as a type of nonviolent harm. And in some crimes, such as incitement or conspiracy, the law says speech can be a proximate cause of violence. But this ruling treats speech itself as a form of literal violence—as the immediate cause of death. As the American Civil Liberties Union put it in a statement, the prosecution's theory is that Carter "literally killed Mr. Roy with her words. This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions."

A month before Roy took his life in June of 2014, Carter had attempted to talk her depressive boyfriend out of killing himself. Roy had already attempted suicide before; when he considered another attempt, Carter texted, "I'm trying my best to dig you out." But by July Carter's texts had taken a turn for the perverse. She told him repeatedly that suicide was the only way out. On July 12th, when Roy got sick from carbon monoxide and stepped out of his car, Carter texted him to "get back in."

What motivated Carter to do this? The prosecution painted a picture of a teenager who wanted attention for her recently deceased boyfriend. The defense maintained Carter struggled from an eating disorder and depression and, at the time of Roy's death, was "involuntarily intoxicated" with antidepressants.

Neither scenario matters. Whatever her motives or her poor choices, the important legal question is whether her words actually caused Roy's death. And it was carbon monoxide poisoning that killed Conrad Roy, not Michelle Carter's messages.

Carter's punishment does not fit the crime. Involuntary manslaughter is a conviction for a negligent surgeon, for an abusive husband who unintentionally kills his spouse, for a drunk driver who accidentally runs someone down. A reckless text is not a reckless, swerving car. Words are not literal weapons, and the moral turpitude of Carter's comments does not change that.

Some legal experts have speculated that the judge's ruling was an attempt to convince lawmakers to pass legislation making people liable for their online speech. But even if such a bill were a good idea, you shouldn't convict someone for committing a crime that doesn't exist in the hope that lawmakers will someday pass a law to fit the crime. This isn't how our judicial system works.

Let's hope an appeals court strikes it down. As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown asked when the charges were first brought, "Do we really want to charge teens as killers for reacting imperfectly to loved ones' pain and mental illness?"

(* Correction: This post originally stated that that Roy killed himself in Fairhaven, Kansas; in fact it was Fairhaven, Massachusetts.)

Photo Credit: Nate Steiner

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  • chemjeff||

    A bench trial for an involuntary manslaughter charge? WTF?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    She was a minor at the time, maybe that plays into it.

  • Quixote||

    Minor or not, clearly she committed a serious crime, and the fact that she used "speech" to do it is irrelevant. Even Robby Soave himself, writing in the New York Times, suggested that there would be no problem if she were merely charged with some "little" crime like harassment. As if he didn't know very well that if her "speech" were constitutionally protected, then she couldn't be charged with any crime at all. This is just one more step towards taking back our country and making it great again. Surely no one here would dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in our nation's leading criminal "satire" case? See the documentation at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • ||

    She waived her right to have a jury. I guess she just didn´t want 12 people to discuss what a horrible person she is.

  • chemjeff||

    I suppose. What a terrible decision though.

  • Jacks61||

    There's about 50 other decisions she could have made and didn't. Clearly the guy was reaching out so. It's hard for me to just say this is free speech. Sometimes there are consequences for our actions, and she did act. Her knowing his history has to be considered as well.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    its not always a bad decision to waive the jury trial, although generally it is. but if the defendant's theory of the case is a bit complex and subtle, or if the defendant is particularly unlikable, then it might be a much easier sell to a judge than a jury

  • Devastator||

    Exactly, a good lawyer could have convinced a group of jurors that this was free speech (no matter how hateful and inappropriate). This should have been a civil lawsuit. She has a great chance on appeal. She just needs to get away from the far left judges and ones who know the Constitution.

  • Devastator||

    I meant "get away from far left judges and to ones that know the Constitution"

  • Robert||

    Maybe because juvie.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    I didn't personally kill anyone, I was only giving orders.

  • IceTrey||

    Which is conspiracy. I wouldn't mind if she was convicted of that.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    A conspiracy to murder the victim, with........the victim? Not sure that fits in their jurisdiction.

  • Agammamon||

    Conspiracy to commit suicide?

  • IceTrey||

    Well attempting suicide IS illegal.

  • croaker||

    And in some states the penalty is death.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Death by ritual suicide.

  • JuanQPublic||

    That's not the same thing. That's conspiracy.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Reprinting my comment from the PM links:

    I'm not torn on this one. It's not like he didn't know what the outcome would be. Her actions may be reprehensible, but he knew what would happen if he got back in the truck. He did it on his own free will.

    What about her? Did her mental state play into this? She had a history of depression and eating disorders. Was she on any of the mind-shredders they prescribe to everyone these days?

    The biggest issue to me here falls into criminalizing speech. The precedent set here could be used against anyone who influenced the thoughts of the maniac who shot Rep. Scalise. The opportunities for prosecutorial/litigative abuse are staggering. Hurt the wrong person's feelings and they do something stupid, and you could be doing hard time.

    They got this one wrong. The conviction should be reversed.

  • Rat on a train||

    The precedent set here could be used against anyone who influenced the thoughts of the maniac who shot Rep. Scalise. The opportunities for prosecutorial/litigative abuse are staggering.

    Feature not bug. - ABA

  • Sevo||

    "The biggest issue to me here falls into criminalizing speech."

    Yep.
    You will get bad speech by supporting. You will get far worse by cutting exceptions; there are no limits in that direction.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    That's where I disagree. Some speech is criminal. He supposedly got out of the truck and went back in because she texted him to do so. That puts the burden on him, unless he was so dazed and confused that he didn't know what he was doing, but it doesn't put the burden on her.

    But what if some random stranger had told him the right way to recover from half-suicide was to drink bleach, and he did? That would be intentional false advice, deadly advice, and a much clearer example where I could see criminal charges and conviction.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    In the case you suggest, I Agree. But just to be clear, I said "he knew what would happen if he got back in the truck"

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    But did he? At that point, half dead or at least half-whacked by the gas, who can say what mind he was in? He was aware enough to get out, but not aware enough to stay out.

    I haven't seen enough evidence to say she's guilty of murder or even involuntary manslaughter. Maybe the judge heard enough testimony to convince him. But she was just a kid at the time, so who says she should even be held responsible?

    It's just a mixed up mess.

  • Crusty Juggler - Elite||

    I'm not torn on this one. It's not like he didn't know what the outcome would be. Her actions may be reprehensible, but he knew what would happen if he got back in the truck. He did it on his own free will.

    I disagreed with this sentiment when I first read about the case, but I wholeheartedly agree with you now.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    This doesn't set a new precedent; for one this is a trial court and has no power to set precedent, and two it is already illegal (under most states common law) to incite another person to commit a crime. See Brandenburg v. Ohio. The distinction between free speech and criminal speech is a factual one and depends on whether the person is encouraging an "imminently lawless action" that poses a "clear and present danger" or if they are merely advocating for illegal activity to be carried out at some indefinite point in the future.

  • Robert||

    But suicide is not a crime.

  • croaker||

  • Devastator||

    She was a terrible person, but what she did wasn't against the law. This is just an activist far left judge. She will get out of it on appeal if she tries.

  • nocrsistoday||

    The Kmart was in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, not Kansas.

  • Jerryskids||

    If Mass has a physician-assisted suicide law, she'd probably get 20 years for practicing medicine without a license.

    And I seem to recall reading something about this when it first happened that suggested the guy had threatened to commit suicide several times before and she was just sick of his shit and told him to quit being a drama queen and go ahead and kill himself this time. Or maybe that was her planned defense. Come to think of it, why wasn't that her defense? That she didn't seriously think he was really attempting to commit suicide but just threatening it as a way of getting attention.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    Not having paid that much attention to this earlier, I'd not heard that detail about having tried to talk him out of it previously. That really absolutely seems relevant to intent, but that may not be relevant to an involuntary manslaughter charge.

    I might add that it always irks me when the media truncate that to "manslaughter", even if the penalty ranges are similar -- It's a pretty major moral distinction in my mind.

  • ||

    She told him to get back in the car after he got scared and changed his mind for a while. After the suicide, she tried to present herself as suicide awareness warrior. To me, it seems as if she deliberately found a suicidal boyfriend, gained his trust by trying to talk him out of it and while he was still at a vulnerable state, she started to push him in the opposite direction to pursue her agenda- but I may be wrong.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    That's pretty accurate for what I've read.

  • Devastator||

    If you've ever dealt with someone who used suicide as a weapon you'd know he probably was constantly doing it to try and get her attention. I've dealt with lying manipulators like that when I was younger. Best thing she could have done was walk away, now she'll be lucky to get 5 years parole and time served. She could go to prison for years.

  • IceTrey||

    Speaking of cars and death anyone catch "Blood Drive" last night?

  • chemjeff||

    Yeah it is hard for me to see how letting this conviction stand is at all good for free speech.

  • Daily Beatings||

    So everyone in NYC who yells "go ahead and jump" to a ledge jumper is guilty?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    How about the people who cheered on and encouraged Leo Rossi when he raped Jodie Foster on top of that pinball machine?

  • Bubba Jones||

    Was Jodie a willing participant?

  • Longtobefree||

    Hell yes. She signed the contract after reading the script, right?

  • Hank Phillips||

    I blame Alan Alda and the musicians who recorded the "Suicide is Painless" theme drilled repeatedly into the heads of future Bernie supporters.

  • croaker||

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I have pretty much mixed feelings about this: personal responsibility, suicide should be legal, etc. But if someone changes their suicidal mind and leaves the truck filling with poisonous gas, and you tell them to get back in, that seems to me to be crossing the line in some ways. If she said it with the intent of making him die when he had changed his mind, is that not murder of some sort?

    It brings to mind all the debate over assisted suicide. The great danger is in proving that the suicider intended to die. If someone wanted me to help them, I would take great pains to make sure that was well documented by numerous witnesses. It would be so easy for next of kin to claim you took advantage of the suicider's weak mind and your long friendship. At the same time, to not have overwhelming proof of the suicider's intent, it would be all too easy for unscrupulous people to lie about the intent.

    So I don't really know enough about this case to know whether she's an evil manipulating bitch or a caring friend who helped him do what he really wanted to do. And I don't know that anyone else does either, especially a judge who has his own personal bias to deal with.

  • chemjeff||

    It is crossing the line in terms of ethical behavior. I think all would agree with that. But it is still only words. She didn't fill the truck with gas herself.

  • IceTrey||

    Under libertarianism only initiating physical force is immoral, words can never hurt you.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good point despite the grammar. But I recently spotted something calling itself Stormfront bemoaning the sentencing of Julius Streicher. This was the publisher of Der Sturmer who explicitly advocated genocidal extermination of "Jews", largely on grounds that they were innately selfish. Streicher's propaganda was a plea to make the world safe for altruism in a country made up some 98% of protestant and catholic mystics, descended from perpetrators of the 30 Years' War. Schadenfreude would interfere with my preparing a brief for his defense.

  • oclisa||

    Not to forget: This judgment didn't come out of nowhere; first the prosecution filed the charges. Something is very amiss when the prosecution alleges the elements of involuntary manslaughter given the facts of this case and it is downright haywire when the court agrees. Slowly but surely, the rule of law is becoming but a quaint expression.

  • buybuydandavis||

    This was a bench trial, so the judge rather than a jury determined the verdict. His ruling threatens the very core of how our legal system approaches speech.

    Wut

    What happened to the right to a trial by jury, in a criminal case no less?

    Did the defendant somehow waive that right, opting for a "bench trial"?

    Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz declared this illegal, even though there is no law in Massachusetts against encouraging suicide.

    Juvie Court. This is not a guy on the short list for the Supremes. I would be that this gets overturned on appeal.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    And if she escapes jail, his family can always wait for awhile to have her done in.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    She waived her right to a trial by jury.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Whatever her motives or her poor choices, the important legal question is whether her words actually caused Roy's death. And it was carbon monoxide poisoning that killed Conrad Roy, not Michelle Carter's messages."

    "If they read my messages to him, I'm done," she texted to another friend."

    ----Michelle Carter

    http://tinyurl.com/yawqlkrn

    Motives and poor choices speak to mens rea. Whether what she did was a crime may be open to debate, but mens rea is not.

    A crime involves violating someone's rights. I don't know that she did that. I also don't know that her psychologically disturbed boyfriend would have gotten back in the car without her texts.

    Like I wrote earlier, the First Amendment doesn't protect violating someone's rights with your speech any more than the Second Amendment protects violating someone's rights with a gun. The question really shouldn't be about whether she did it with her speech--as if that alone would exonerate her. The question should be about whether what she did violated the victim's rights.

    P.S. Conventional wisdom has it that you go to a jury if you're innocent and waive that right and go to a judge if you want a fair trial. I think that was probably a mistake on her defense's part. She should have gone with a jury.

    If her sanity is in any way in question, that alone might have prompted one juror in 12 to refuse to convict.

  • chemjeff||

    In fairness, "I'm done" isn't exactly a specific confession to anything.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You'd have to really twist hard to read that as anything other than an admission from a guilty mind.

  • chemjeff||

    Yes, I think that does come from a guilty mind. But it does not necessarily mean that she thinks she is guilty of a specific crime.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yes it does.

    Whether she's actually guilty and whether she thought she was guilty of something are two different questions.

    Because you don't think she committed a crime doesn't mean you have to pretend something doesn't say what it says or mean what it means.

  • chemjeff||

    Or as a matter of fact, does it necessarily mean that she thinks she is guilty of any crime at all. Only that she thinks she would be "in trouble" in some general way.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I didn't say it meant she was guilty of a crime.

    Quite the opposite

    "Whether what she did was a crime may be open to debate, but mens rea is not."

    Again, for the fifth time, the question is whether she violated that guy's rights.

    . . . not whether she had mens rea.

    She had mens rea, but that doesn't necessarily mean she committed a crime--if she didn't violate the guy's rights.

  • LarryA||

    In fairness, "I'm done" isn't exactly a specific confession to anything.

    As seen in this case, it may simply be the acknowledgement that you are about to be legally shafted, whether you're guilty or not.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The difference between thinking that if anyone saw what you wrote, they'd criminally prosecute you for it and thinking that you're guilty of a crime because of what you wrote is a matter of interpretation.

    It is not unreasonable for a judge or jury to look at that statement and think it qualifies as evidence of mens rea.

    It qualifies.

    It can't be interpreted in any way that doesn't have something to do with knowing that she could be held criminally responsible for what she wrote. A juror or judge who wants to find her guilty has no problem finding mens rea here.

    She's right there talking about her state of mind at the time of the alleged crime--before the allegation of criminal conduct was exposed.

  • Sevo||

    "Like I wrote earlier, the First Amendment doesn't protect violating someone's rights with your speech any more than the Second Amendment protects violating someone's rights with a gun"

    I'm waiting to see the verbal gymnastics it takes to show 'violating someone's rights with speech'.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The First Amendment doesn't protect saying, "Empty the cash register or I'll shoot you in the face" any more than the Second Amendment protects shooting someone in the face because they won't empty the cash register.

    It doesn't require any gymnastics at all.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    And you think this an equivalent situation.....lol. That's some pretty tortured logic.

  • Kevin47||

    He didn't say it was. He was responding to a comment you apparently didn't read.

  • Sevo||

    "The First Amendment doesn't protect saying, "Empty the cash register or I'll shoot you in the face" any more than the Second Amendment protects shooting someone in the face because they won't empty the cash register."

    Ken, you just repeated your assertion and didn't answer the question:
    How can any speech 'violate someone's rights?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I just gave you an example of speech being used to violate someone's rights.

    Fraud violates the victim's rights.

    Telling a bank teller that you've got a bomb and you're going to blow her up if she doesn't empty the cash register is speech that violates someone's rights.

    Perjury violates people's rights.

    Extortion violates people's rights.

    Bribery violates people's rights.

    These are all legitimate crimes of speech.

    You are free to say what you please--so long as you don't use your speech to violate someone's rights. Violating someone's rights with your speech is not protected by the First Amendment any more than violating someone's rights with a gun is protected by the Second Amendment. It's the same thing.

    The question isn't whether this was speech. The question is whether it violated the guy's rights. If it didn't, then the First Amendment applies. If no one's rights were violated, then there was no crime.

  • Sevo||

    "Fraud violates the victim's rights."
    Wrong. The speech alone does not

    "Telling a bank teller that you've got a bomb and you're going to blow her up if she doesn't empty the cash register is speech that violates someone's rights."
    See below; that includes the expectation of action. Wrong again.

    "Perjury violates people's rights."
    Assertion; prove it.

    "Extortion violates people's rights."
    Wrong; requires action.

    "Bribery violates people's rights."
    Wrong; requires action

  • Ken Shultz||

    This is ridiculous denialism.

    Do you imagine that robbing a bank is only a crime if it's done successfully?

    And it's pointless denialism, too.

    If the girl didn't violate the guy's rights, then, in this case, it doesn't make any difference whether people can violate each other's rights with speech.

    Sheesh. I've seen creationists whose denialism isn't this bad.

    Your weird denialism aside, yeah, people can and do violate each others' rights with speech--just like they do with a gun. I mean, it isn't the armed robber's fault if the cashier gave him the money--'cause he didn't actually shoot anybody, he just threatened to shoot--is that what I'm supposed to think?

    Yeah, you walk into a 7-11 and tell the cashier you're gonna shoot him if he doesn't empty the register, and you've committed a legitimate crime.

    If the cashier pulls out a gun and shoots you because he took your threat seriously, he hasn't committed a crime--because in response to a threat like that he has the right to choose to defend himself.

    Suggesting otherwise is laughable.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Maybe think of it this way--the NRA doesn't defend the actions of bank robbers, mass shooters at schools, etc. saying that shooting people can't be a crime because of the Second Amendment.

    What would happen to support for the Second Amendment and gun rights if they did that?

    Libertarianism isn't about defending those who violate people's rights with speech either. What will people think of the First Amendment if they come to imagine that it protects criminals who violate people's rights with speech?

  • Jeep's Blues||

    "I'm waiting to see the verbal gymnastics it takes to show 'violating someone's rights with speech".

    Indeed threatening an individual with speech is a crime. Whether it applies in this case I don't know.

  • Sevo||

    "Indeed threatening an individual with speech is a crime."

    Not quite:
    "Although words alone are insufficient, they might create an assault when coupled with some action that indicates the ability to carry out the threat."
    http://legal-dictionary.thefre.....al+assault

    Which still does not address how speech can violate rights.

  • Bubba Jones||

    If he isn't responsible for his actions because he is depressed, why is the disturbed teenaged girl?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Apparently, the defense brought up that she was on antidepressants of some sort.

    I think there are multiple grounds for an appeal, and I'm sure there will be one.

  • Devastator||

    It's pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to the legal system, judges consider themselves gods of their local fiefdoms, so of course she knew some judges would see what she did as murder, even thought it wasn't. That dude 100% killed himself. He could have sought help, quit talking to her, or any other number of things it is on him, and now he's dead. She should go free and realize a shitty person she was and try to get some help on how to have some compassion. What she did wasn't illegal though. Only the most liberal interpretation and twisting of the Constitution by a liberal judge could come up with this ruling. Or possibly he simply doesn't care and wants a +1 to his conviction rate.

  • Alcibiades||

    "Like I wrote earlier, the First Amendment doesn't protect violating someone's rights with your speech any more than the Second Amendment protects violating someone's rights with a gun. The question really shouldn't be about whether she did it with her speech--as if that alone would exonerate her. The question should be about whether what she did violated the victim's rights."

    How did her speech violate his rights?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "How did her speech violate his rights?"

    That's the proper question.

    If she wasn't guilty, then that's why--because she didn't violate his rights.

    It has nothing to do with the fact that it's speech. It has to do with the fact that she didn't violate the guy's rights.

  • chemjeff||

    I guess it all hinges on how much agency you are willing to grant to Conrad. If you believe he was of sound enough mind to reject obviously bad advice at the time, then he is solely to blame for his actions. But if you believe he was basically accepting orders from Carter like a private takes orders from a drill sergeant, then she deserves some blame for giving him orders that she knew would end his life. I happen to favor the former interpretation but I am at a loss of what to do in the latter case and still have a robust defense of free speech.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I suspect the judge saw it that way.

    And I believe we're talking about a manslaughter charge here--like a drunk driver killing someone.

    If he had Down syndrome and didn't know that getting into the car might kill him, could she be criminally responsible for telling him to get back in the car and go to sleep--knowing that it would kill him?

    I think the judge may have been wrong on this point. I also suspect that the victim wouldn't have gotten back in the car if it hadn't been for her texts, and the judge is using that as the basis to find her guilty. Mens rea is clear enough.

    Regardless of whether the judge was right to say that she violated this guy's rights with speech, people can and do violate each others' rights with speech every day. Strong arm robbery, fraud, extortion, bribery, etc., etc. these legitimate crimes are crimes of speech. If you violate someone's rights with your speech, the First Amendment doesn't protect that.

  • MarkLastname||

    I wonder what a jury (or judge?) would do if given the opportunity of a middle ground between manslaughter and acquittal.

    Others on this thread have defended the (dare I say, 'doctrinaire') libertarian position that, since there was no physical coercion, no crime was committed by the defendant. IOW, only the physical actor or someone physically threatening the physical actor can be held legally responsible.

    The problem is, there are countless instances where individuals who never physically commit a crime are held legally responsible for the actions of others. If you ask someone to commit a murder, you are responsible for putting the idea in the head of the person who physically commits the murder. It seems the same freedom of speech argument could be applied there too: the onus is on the would-be murderer to ignore the request of the conspirator, and that his choice alone matters, and whoever influenced him to commit the act (unless the influence was coercive) is legally irrelevant.

  • Kevin47||

    If you tell someone they should commit murder, but don't name a victim or class of victims, you aren't culpable.

  • Devastator||

    It's dead obvious he had free will. She didn't have him in her basement beating him daily telling him he needed to kill himself. He could have walked at any point.

  • Alcibiades||

    Absent some kind of military situation it seems clear Conrad possessed agency, he'd already expressed a clear desire to commit suicide and there's nothing intrinsically coercive in a text message. I have no idea how this verdict was reached.

  • Ken Shultz||

    he'd already expressed a clear desire to commit suicide

    It's probably harder to commit suicide than it is to quit smoking.

    Most people who are successful make multiple attempts because of that. If he would have survived sans her texts, then it's not completely unreasonable to blame her texts for his death.

    There's still an open question of whether she violated his rights.

  • Texasmotiv||

    I think this is the right way to look at it. As someone who's been in that mindframe before. I would not think that her message was obeyed like a commandment but more like another thing to pile on to a list of reasons why you want to kill yourself.

    The one thing that stopped me was knowing that the people I loved would be devastatingly hurt. And here is someone that I guess he loved telling him she wants him dead. Which I think makes her a bad person, but I'm not the one to ultimately judge that. Legally I don't think you can pin this on her but to me I reckon there is a seat in hell, front row, with her name taped on it.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Conrad Roy III pulled the stupid lever all by himself.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    For once PB is unstupid.

  • chemjeff||

    And I think the general principle involved is of more consequence here. At what point should the courts, or anyone, declare someone to be incompetent enough as to no longer be responsible for their own actions? This is true for people under the influence of some adulterant, for people in seriously depressed states, for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's (potentially), and I don't know the correct answer to how to avoid having these people be exploited by those whom they trust while still maintaining robust protections of the liberty of people who do have full agency about their affairs. If you argue "Conrad was essentially incompetent so therefore Michelle bears criminal guilt for giving him orders leading him to end his life" - which I admit is a reasonable interpretation - then there has to be some objective standard by which a person should be declared incompetent so that the rest of us can avoid landing in jail for giving bad advice to people whom we know PROBABLY won't accept that advice, but might in a very small minority of cases.

  • Kevin47||

    While I disagree with the decision, I'm not sure the implications for speech are quite so dire. If she were instructing Conrad to put any other person in the car, it would be pretty open and shut. Her prescribed actions were specific, would have a certain outcome, and pertained to a specific person.

    The more pertinent issues are whether suicide and homicide should be treated the same way, and the propensity of prosecutors to slap manslaughter on stuff that seems like it should be illegal.

    But to prosecute, for example, members of the internet forum where Scalise's shooter participated in political discussion would be an entirely different ballgame. They could cite this case as precedent, but there is no real logical reason to do so.

  • creech||

    We better watch the woodchipper jokes just in case someone here does have, and use, a woodchipper!

  • DenverJ||

    And what have we all learned from this, boys and girls?
    That's right: phones are the Debil.

  • Barbara Yarhead||

    I am Absolutely stunned that any libertarian would support this decision or the logic and assumptions underpinning it. Death can't come soon enough in this crazy world.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I can understand the logic behind terrorists and serial killers.

    That doesn't mean I support it.

    Use your think bone.

  • Rich||

    Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz declared this illegal, since there is no law in Massachusetts against declaring this illegal even though there is no law in Massachusetts against encouraging suicide.

    FTFY

  • LarryA||

    Short version: Everything is illegal in Massachusetts.

  • Rich||

    OT: Experts find adding a hardware chip to an e-cig can turn it into a hacking tool

    Of course, this can be done only with e-cigs, right? RIGHT?!

  • Griffin3||

    Uhm, adding an RFID chip to SPOON can turn it into a hacking tool.

  • Griffin3||

    And don't get me started on the bluetooth tampons ...

  • Lester224||

    She seems to be a terrible person. However, she did not get drunk and run him down with a car. What she did was to encourage him repeatedly to commit suicide (after occasionally telling him not to.) He was the originator of the suicide idea. She told him 'get back in the car' when he said he was scared. However, he was the one who got back in the car and turned on the engine.

    She wasn't his teacher or boss or his superior officer in the army. She had no real coercive power over him. If Massachusetts wants a law against assisted suicide the legislature should pass one. This is an assisted suicide and the assistant is morally very flawed. I'm sure she deserves punishment. Manslaughter is the wrong crime and this is a terrible precedent.

  • Robert||

    Encouraged, not assisted.

  • Rich||

  • Incredulous||

    There's so much wrong here. Where do I start? First of all, a bench trial for manslaughter? WTF? Secondly, manslaughter charges for a negligent surgeon? WTF? Maybe if the surgeon was grossly negligent, maybe drunk or high. Otherwise, that's fucking ridiculous. Certain physicians deal with life and death everyday, especially some surgeons, and it is obscenely criminal itself to hold them criminally liable for their human imperfection and somebody's unfortunate death. Third, "imperfectly" dealing with a loved one's pain and mental illness? I'm sorry but that's a fucking idiotic description of what this sociopathic woman did. I would say she "perfectly' did a nice job of motivating her boyfriend to kill himself. While I agree that convicting her based on a nonexistent law is fucked up and an abuse of the legal system, I have absolutely no sympathy for her.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Nobody in this thread (or any reasonable person) would argue she isn't a devious little cunt who deserves zero sympathy. No matter, how can anyone be ok with some half wit judge making up a crime out of thin air. This ain't Stalin's Soviet paradise.....yet.

  • Robert||

    Devious little cunt? How about someone who was just fed up w the boyfriend's implicit threats to kill himself unless [whatever]?

  • One Last Caress||

    If I strongly encouraged someone to make a shitload of money would I be entitled to some of money.

  • Rich||

    Beautiful.

    "Get back into entrepreneurship. You just need to do it."

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    The underlying premise supporting the prosecution's argument is that, somehow, the man lost all agecy thus making Carter (the girlfried) completely responsible for his well-being... by remote control. Not only is the prosecution guilty of promoting this travesty along with the self-righteous judge, but if I understood the defense corretly, it seems like the lawyers accepted the premise as they made the proposition that the girl was not thinking clearly instead of making the correct case that the girl can say whatever she wants no matter how despicable her words.

    The prosecution'scase rested on the notion that one person can control another with mere words. How different is this from accusing the girl of being a witch?

  • Texasmotiv||

    Does she weigh less than a duck?

  • Robert||

    If so, then accuse her of being a chick.

  • SQRLSY One||

    What did the "spectral witnesses" have to say about it?

    Were they not even summoned in the 1st place?

    What a sad, sad day, when passing ruffian-judges do NOT even allow the "spectral witnesses" to have their say in court!!!

  • OGREtheTroll||

    Im usually on the 'free speech at all costs' side of things, and I was a criminal defense lawyer for 10 years, but I think in this specific set of facts that the judge issued a proper verdict. Essentially the girl incited and encouraged the boy to take a life (albeit, his own), and incitement has been grounds for a conviction under the common law since before the colonies were founded. If the situation was, as someone above gave as an example, that the boy had trapped a third person in the car, and when he was letting them out of the car she convinced him to push that person back into the car to ensure that they died, she would almost certainly be found guilty of murder. The issue is whether she was urging him to commit an 'imminently lawless action' or if she was merely advocating for illegal activity at some indefinite time in the future. The standard is one of 'clear and present danger.' So as the judge pointed out, it was primarily her encouraging him to continue on when he was in the process of killing himself and started to back out that gives rise to the conviction; in that moment she knew he was on the verge of killing himself, she had helped him with advice and counsel to get to this point, and she urged him to continue on when he was about to back out. The prior texts that were generally advocating for him to kill himself are insufficient, but the communications DURING the act were so germane to his death that she can be held criminally liable for them.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: OGREtheTroll,

    [...]the communications DURING the act were so germane to his death that she can be held criminally liable for them.


    So you ARE accusing Carter of being a witch. Or how do you think her words were germaine to his death? How does that work?

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    "germane".

  • Robert||

    But this would be incitement to an act that's legal (suicide).

  • IceTrey||

    So anyone who yells "Jump" at a guy on a ledge is a murderer?

  • Queen Screwup||

    Thank you! So glad someone else on this site can see it. People are so god awful they'll excuse almost anything. I'm willing to bet real money that the people who don't think she did anything wrong are the same people who would watch a woman getting raped and not do anything.

  • Sevo||

    Queen Screwup|6.17.17 @ 7:07PM|#
    "...I'm willing to bet real money that the people who don't think she did anything wrong are the same people who would watch a woman getting raped and not do anything."

    I don't have to bet anything to point out you're an imbecile.

  • Sevo||

    OGREtheTroll|6.17.17 @ 10:56AM|#
    "Im usually on the 'free speech at all costs' side of things,..."

    'I'm for free speech, but......'
    IOWs, you are for free speech unless you disagree.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    I'm for the free exchange of ideas. But to ignore that some speech is also an action (and vice versa), and to proclaim that we should be free from all consequences of those actions, is a bit irrational. We obviously allow for people to be held civilly and criminally liable for all kinds of speech, such as fraud and defamation. Are you suggesting that all laws against fraud should be abolished?

    In this specific situation we have a girl who through her speech manipulated a boy to take a life. If the life were that of a third person I doubt very much we'd be having this discussion; incitement to murder has been a crime for a very very long time. I think the hangup here is that it was a suicide. But is there not a fact pattern you would recognize in which one person could persuade another to take their own life unjustly, such that the survivor can be held criminally liable? What if it were the boys parents who every day told him "We don't love you, go kill yourself." And "Heres a website that tells you how to kill yourself, read it and go kill yourself." And toss on any other derogatory and manipulative statements you wish. When the boy succumbs to his parents speech and finally offs himself are the parents not legally responsible?

  • Ken Shultz||

    To everyone I've written to above, here's what it boils down to in my mind.

    1) A legitimate crime only happens when someone's rights are violated

    2) People can violate other people's rights with speech, so whether this was speech is beside the point.

    3) If her speech didn't violate this guy's rights, then she didn't commit a crime.

    I think people are chasing a free speech red herring here. The defense made it a free speech issue, but that was a mistake--like making a murder case a Second Amendment issue.

    The contention that if you didn't violate anyone's rights then you didn't commit a crime is more fundamentally libertarian than any other principle at stake here--and it's directly pertinent to this case. They can check all the other boxes for a crime--including mens rea. They just can't explain how she violated this guy's rights.

    I suppose the other fundamentally libertarian principle at stake here is the fact that there is an important difference between immoral behavior and criminal behavior. I don't think anyone is saying that what she did was morally admirable, but that isn't the question. The question is whether it was a crime--and that's a different question that requires the state to prove that someone's right were violated.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    We could agree that some speech can be compelling, yes? When we look at false confessions we can usually see that the interrogator compelled the defendant to confess even if he was completely innocent. Do we say that the police don't violate the defendant's rights to free speech because he voluntarily gave the confession? He knew what words he was speaking, nobody physically coerced him to say them, he could have stopped saying them at any moment. But in such cases we look at the total factual circumstance to determine if he was compelled to give a false confession, even if the only influencing factor is the speech of the interrogators. We can say that 'but for" the interrogators speech a confession would not have been given. Likewise in this specific scenario we can say that 'but for' her urging the boy to get back in the car he wouldn't have died. If her speech was so compelling to the boy, given the total factual circumstances surrounding the event, and if her speech was for him to conduct an imminent and dangerous action, she can be held responsible for the action he takes.

  • Texasmotiv||

    People don't give false confessions over the phone or through text message. They do that because police have locked them in a room for hours upon hours- isolated, tired, sleep deprived. This is more like if you locked yourself in an interrogation room and after 12 hours called the police.

    You may be right about the legal culpability (I'm no lawyer) I was just highlighting the difference in the analogy.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    sure its not a perfect factually-identical analogy. (And not all false confessions come about that way, sometimes it takes very little pressure at all to coax one from a defendant, particularly the young and mentally disturbed such as the boy here.) But my point is that sometimes speech alone is sufficient to cause a person to take actions they would not have taken otherwise. That is the very meaning of the word "persuasive" and people persuade others to do things they wouldn't otherwise do every single day. Obviously persuading someone to commit murder is illegal. In this case we have someone persuading another to commit suicide. Even if we accept the proposition that suicide should not be illegal, I don't see how that removes culpability from another person persuading one to commit suicide; it is suicide for the one who kills themselves, but its still another life for the one persuading. And this particular fact pattern involves a lot more than just a "Go on and jump" statement; this was the girl exerting significant influence over this boy for a sustained period of time, and then convincing him to continue on even when he was wanting to turn back. The girl wanted this result, she said what she had to say to get the result achieved; the fact she didn't do anything physically other than say words shouldn't change the fact that she proximately and intentionally caused the boys death.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Did she somehow remotely take away his right to NOT get back in the car?
    No, she did NOT! He exercised his free will.
    Case closed; she was a scumbucket morally-ethically, but committed no crime.
    The killer was the self-victim. Punishment has already been meted out, by victimizer = victim. Again, case closed.

  • Robert||

    A month before Roy took his life in June of 2014, Carter had attempted


    How hard did you have to think to come up w such a confusing way to write, "In June of 2014, a month before Roy took his own life, Carter had attempted..."? The way you had it, I was thinking Roy killed Carter in June, 2014.

  • Robert||

    How hard do you have to twist this to see involuntary manslaughter? Even if it were manslaughter, it'd have to be voluntary, because apparently the person wished the other person's death.

    Is there an insurance angle to this case? Like maybe the boyfriend had just gotten a job w a life insurance policy as employee benefit (because nobody that age would buy life insurance), & the beneficiary wants to collect?

  • ToCa81||

    Made the mistake of going to The NY Times page and reading a bunch of comments from happy slaves who were thrilled to see this verdict. Then I come here and am surprised to see a few puppets got lost and ended up at a Libertarian site. This ruling is wrong on so many levels. Obviously, this girl was a horrible twat, and she is definitely guilty of bullying this troubled young man, but she did not fucking kill him. It was a suicide. So manslaughter did not fucking happen. He had agency over his own body and made the decision to end his own life. It's as simple as that. Anybody who fails to see this should never serve on a jury, and should absolutely never practice law. This judge needs to be disbarred and this verdict needs to be overturned asap.

  • Hank Phillips||

    In May of 1929 three bootleggers were found--shot dead, bound in wire and stuffed in a car trunk--next to a corn sugar plant in Hammond, Indiana. The plant is a few miles from Chicago, but Al Capone was in Florida when this happened. Yet Chicago police and later Hollywood circulated rumors that Capone had somehow orchestrated the killing of his own associates next to a source of raw materials for alcohol. The depths of official gullibility then and now are equally unplumbed.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Y'all recall "Bong Hits for Jesus"? Some teenager in Alaska got busted for displaying such a sign at a High School event. Some stupid judge on SCOTUS pretty much said, "Bong Hits for Jesus" isn't protected, but "Vote for Bong Hits for Jesus" would be, since the former is NOT political, but the latter is!
    So… To be clear, I think encouraging other people to punch their own tickets is reprehensible, yes, but free speech is free speech!
    Well anyway, if you want to stoop so low as to do this, make sure that you turn it into a POLITICAL message, explicitly! "Punch yer own ticket, please, punk, so as to remove another human pest off of the planet; humans are a disease to Gaia", or "PLEASE commit suicide, since you are a Democrat, and we need LESS of y'all, and MORE of good Republicans like MEEEE"!

  • Queen Screwup||

    WTF is wrong with this writer? She pushed him for months to kill himself knowing he was suicidal AND when he attempted to back out she demanded that he finish the job. This is NOT a free speech matter. Holy crap, it amazes me the sickos out there that defend her actions. You have to wonder what this writer does in her free time that she doesn't want to face the consequences for.

  • Sevo||

    "This is NOT a free speech matter"

    "Congress shall make no law..."
    See that "no" right there?
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • JFree||

    I agree with you. The second he got out of the car - and she urged him back in - she crossed the line of criminal negligence at a minimum. There may be mitigating circumstances (eg she is young and stupid) but in every single country where assisted suicide is legal, she would have crossed the line into criminal behavior.

  • Sevo||

    "Congress shall make no law..." Unless JFree says so.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • JFree||

    So basically you don't think fraud is an offense either. Nor is ordering someone else to commit murder.

  • Mcgoo95||

    This is Sevo's go to move when he's logically beaten. He'll just say "Fuck off, slaver". Sure beats trying have a rational discussion. Ken Schulz and others have made very good points that are hard to argue with. So mr Sevo, either discuss like a gentleman (person...whatever you are), or go fuck yourself.

  • Devastator||

    Nope. He did it to himself. He is ultimately responsible for his actions, otherwise none of us are responsible for our reactions because we are just programmed automatons that react to the stimuli around us and we have no free will, which means she has no free will either and she is also innocent by extension.

  • OGREtheTroll||

    Is a mob boss telling an underling to kill a third person not also responsible for the death? Even if you accept that the boy has the right to take his own life it doesn't grant her the right to persuade him to do so. One might have the right to burn down their own house, but if another person manipulates them to do so they can be held responsible.

  • ToCa81||

    I have not seen one single person here or anywhere else defend her actions. She is a twisted cunt hair. We are merely pointing out that she was convicted of a crime that didn't actually happen. It was suicide, not manslaughter. Law is (supposed to be) based on reason, not da feels.

  • Devastator||

    This is exactly a free speech matter. He is the one that could have gotten rid of the bitch, but he didn't, he wanted to do this to himself and sought out her opinion on it. He is the one that gassed himself in a truck. If she had locked him in the truck then there might be a case, but we are all ultimately responsible and have to accept the results of our actions. She didn't violently force him to do anything. So you are completely wrong and the author is correct in this matter.

  • Bra Ket||

    "She didn't violently force him to do anything."

    Hmm what about people who tell a hitman to murder someone? Entirely the hitman's responsibility? What if you knowingly tell an ignorant person to administer a fatal dose of some drug to themselves? Entirely an accident since the only "culpable" person is the one doing the physical part of the act and they didn't know any better?

  • Devastator||

    She must have had the worst lawyer ever.

  • CorruptionMan||

    "1) A legitimate crime only happens when someone's rights are violated" - wrong, a crime happens when someone breaks a law. No law was broken here.

    For those of you who say, "Once he got out of the car and she told him to get back in...that's when she became responsible for his death." How did she know he ever actually got into the truck? How did she know he rigged the truck to actually fill with CO? If he attempted suicide previously the texts she was receiving could have been for attention. If he claimed he was sitting in his truck while filling with CO maybe she thought he was crying out for attention again and not actually doing any of it. She wasn't there. She was 17 years old. She was on meds. She had heard his same attention-getting suicidal threat before. Maybe she thought, "Screw it. I'm sick of this kid coming to me with this heavy stuff. Fuck off and kill yourself." In all reality, there is a decent chance she didn't think he'd actually ever kill himself. How many times did he "try" to before? Was it 3? Was it 10? Regardless, he never actually did it before. She may have thought he was totally full of shit. By texting him to go through with it, she becomes a person who that kid won't turn to the next time he wants attention.

    Let me finish by stating I think it is reprehensible for anyone to send texts like that to anyone, particularly to one who has suicidal thoughts. As reprehensible as it is, it is not illegal - nor should it be!

  • Mcgoo95||

    So by your logic, Charles Manson also should never have been convicted.

  • SomeGuy||

    IIRC if your a minor you can't have a jury trial or something like that. There is a different court system for minors unless tried as an adult.

  • Brian Whittle||

    Being tried as an adult is a knee jerk reaction that happens far too many times a year in the USA.

  • Brian Whittle||

    You can't shout fire in a crowded cinema and you can't encourage others to commit suicide.

  • Longtobefree||

    Actually, you can shout fire in a crowded theatre.

    It would be illegal to shout fire falsely in a theatre, crowded or not.

  • Longtobefree||

    So if this is precedent, all the liberal / progressive / whatever statists who are texting the universe that Trump must go at any cost are in fact committing a conspiracy to overturn the duly elected government of the good old USA?

    First infrastructure project; prisons for half the country.

    Further thought: If she is guilty of a crime for her texts, who is guilty for letting her out without a guardian?

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