Court hears case of teen manslaughter

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Court hears case of teen manslaughter

Lucy Musselman, Staff Writer/Website Manager

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Conrad Roy III died in 2014 because his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, had encouraged him to commit suicide through dozens of text messages.

“They were just words and do not constitute a crime,” said Carter’s lawyer to Massachusetts’ highest court on Thursday.

However, a prosecutor argued that Carter had pursued Roy for weeks and emotionally manipulated him into ending his life while he struggled with severe depression. Roy had previously attempted suicide as well.

The Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in Carter’s appeal of a juvenile court judge’s refusal to dismiss the manslaughter charge which came from Roy’s 2014 death.

The justices are struggling to decide if Carter should be charged with manslaughter or not and questioning what she did to assist or encourage the suicide.

In addition to the dozens of text messages, Carter also spoke on the phone with Roy while he was in his truck inhaling carbon monoxide fumes, which is what killed him. She told Roy to “get back in” when he started to change his mind and get out.

“I think what we can say that we know is that she was way over the line when she told him to get back in the truck,” Assistant District Attorney Shoshana Stern said.

However, Carter’s attorney Dana Curhan claimed Roy was determined to take his own life and that Carter repeatedly tried to talk him out of it but finally gave up about two weeks prior to his death.

Curhan said, “Even when she said, ‘get back in the truck,’ that was not the proximate event that resulted in his death. Roy got back in his truck and waited until the fumes overcame him. The undisputed evidence is that Mr. Roy inflicted the harm.”

Carter was 17 and Roy was 18 when he passed. They had met in Florida two years earlier while visiting relatives but kept in touch mostly through texts and emails when they both returned to their homes in Massachusetts — about 50 miles apart. They hadn’t seen each other in more than a year before Roy’s death.

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t,” Carter texted to Roy the day he died.

Roy’s body was found in his pickup truck in Fairhaven and the police found a gasoline-operated water pump in the back seat.

Carter was charged as a youthful offender, which makes her eligible, if convicted of manslaughter, for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Attorney Joseph Cataldo, who also represents Carter, said after the hearing that prosecutors are attempting to criminalize Carter’s free speech even though there is no law against encouraging or assisting suicide in Massachusetts. Thirty-nine states have such laws, however.

The court gave no indication on when it would rule.