Michelle Carter’s sentence came down today. Carter was sentenced to 2.5 years, with 15 months mandatory. Her attorney got her sentence stayed, so she will not serve any of it until she has exhausted her appeals.
If you’re unfamiliar with this specific case, Carter was 17 and her boyfriend was 18 years old and very obviously not in the right state of mind. From the appearance of the text messages, Carter encouraged and egged her boyfriend on in his suicide attempts, in some cases threatening him. When he attempted to kill himself in his car and got out, fearing it was working, she encouraged him to get back in the car and finish the job.
It’s sickening, really. Reading through some of the text messages that have been published, it’s very clear she encouraged him in his suicide by helping him decide how to do it and pushing him into doing it when he kept changing his mind. There were points in the text messages where she was making him feel guilty that he kept talking about it, but never acted upon it.
There were so, so many cries for help in those text messages. They were met with someone who agreed with him that his life was worth ending after originally trying to convince him otherwise. Why the change of heart, Michelle?
For those defending Michelle, their basis seems to be two-fold – that she was not there and did not openly cause the suicide, it was a decision that Conrad made himself and the other point seems to indicate that she might’ve also been in a situation where she wanted to help him and she thought she was helping by supporting him. For those with more far-reaching knowledge of the law, they don’t feel involuntary manslaughter is being interpreted in her case correctly. Massachusetts does not have a law against assisted suicide like 40 other states in the USA. Typically when you hear the words “assisted suicide” your brain floats to a terminal patient who knows he/she is going to die and would rather avoid the pain and suffering that comes along with it. That seems different. It feels different. So much different than this.
This kid was 18. I can think back to being 18. I can think back to how large my problems felt. I can reflect on what they feel like now, many years removed. Conrad needed help and assistance and he was met with someone who was willing to conspire.
But surely you see that supporting someone in their quest for self-harm is not supporting a person, right?
If I am being completely honest, I am surprised she was charged at all. Massachusetts did a thing here. They set a precedent that can be used in other cases. One that was not previously considered. This is a monumental case because it brings text messages into evidence and uses them to help prove their point – that Carter is guilty of manslaughter. The case was made well enough that she was convicted. It indicates she knew what she was doing and she made a conscious decision to do it regardless, understanding the outcome was the death of her boyfriend.
This case is so groundbreaking because it indicates that her words are violent in nature. Typically, you see words protected under the first amendment. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but her text messages don’t seem to fit under any of them. What’s not being highlighted enough in this case by the media are the phone calls that she had with Conrad at the very end. I am of the opinion that this is much less about the text messages and much more about those phone calls. Conrad called Carter after he got out of the car and she reportedly told him to get back in the car. He obliged and she was on the phone with him when he died, knowing he was dying. She did not act. She sat there. That, in my opinion, is what makes her guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Getting out of the car = trying to save himself. If she had not been there encouraging him to get back in, stands to reason he wouldn’t have. Absolutely he played a role in his death. Absolutely, he did. His role ended when he got out of his truck. Her active role in his death began when she told him to get back in. She later admitted in messages to her friends that she could have prevented it, it was her fault and she was responsible for him getting back into the truck.
In MA, there has not been a ruling like this prior and it certainly extends the idea of what constitutes manslaughter. It’s difficult to say if this will or will not be upheld in appeals, but it brings to light a very serious conversation about something that oftentimes gets glossed over. Words are powerful and you are responsible for what comes out of your mouth.