TAUNTON — Michelle Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated’’ by her psychiatric medication and in the grips of a “grandiose” delusion that she alone could help Conrad Roy III find his way to heaven, leaving her to care for his family, a psychiatrist testified Monday.
Dr. Peter R. Breggin presented his analysis Monday in Bristol Juvenile Court, where Carter is on trial for involuntary manslaughter for allegedly pressuring Roy to kill himself in July 2014 through a series of text and Facebook messages.
“She’s not thinking she’s doing something criminal. [She’s thinking] she’s found a way to help her boyfriend,” Breggin told Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz. Carter “was unable to form intent because she was so grandiose and her absolute intent was to help him. He wants to die, he wants to go to heaven ... she will help him, just the way he wants it.”
Carter was diagnosed with depression and placed on Prozac for eight months in 2011, when she was 14, before the dosage was reduced, then halted, Breggin said. Later, Carter was prescribed Prozac again, he said.
Carter began taking Celexa in April 2014 for “impulse control issues,” according to her lawyer. By the time Roy, 18, took his own life, she had become “involuntarily intoxicated” by the medication, which led to a change in the tone of her exchanges with Roy, Breggin said.
“The text messages show a side of a very troubled youngster,” Breggin said. “Her parents, teachers, and coaches didn’t know about this. This was going on largely between her and her peers.”
Breggin noted that Carter organized a fundraiser in Roy’s honor after his death and later sent the dead teenager a text message that she had raised $2,500 in his memory.
Celexa belongs to the class of medications known as SSRIs that target the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls empathy, decision-making, the ability to feel love, and wisdom, Breggin said.
SSRIs “disrupt the frontal lobe function more so with adolescents. The young brain is more susceptible to harm from the SSRIs,” said Breggin, who describes himself on his website as a Harvard-trained psychiatrist with a focus on the “tragic psychiatric drugging of America’s children.”
From October 2012 until July 2014, Roy continuously discussed his desire to end his own life, expressing sadness about turmoil in his home and hearing voices, Breggin said. But Carter was determined to get him professional help, he said.
“You aren’t going to get better on your own,” Carter wrote to Roy, Breggin said. “You need professional help like me.”
“I’m trying my best to dig you out,” Carter wrote.
“I don’t want to be dug out,” Roy replied. Roy went on to tell Carter there was nothing she could do to stop him from committing suicide.
Breggin said Carter was “wholesomely attached to saving [Roy], and helping him and doing everything she can.”
Prosecutors say that Carter, now 20, acted recklessly in encouraging him to kill himself. But Carter’s lawyer, noting that Roy was deeply troubled, has asserted that Carter bears no responsibility for his death.
During cross-examination Monday, Bristol Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn sought to cast doubt on Breggin’s testimony that Carter had cut herself and challenged his assessment of her mental health.
“You don’t think there’s any possibility this could be made up?” Rayburn asked, suggesting that Carter was manipulating people to gain attention.
But Breggin described Carter as “a little girl’’ overwhelmed by her boyfriend’s focus on suicide. After reviewing Roy’s Facebook posts, Breggin said he believed that the teenagers tried to kill himself four times.
“She follows his lead to a very dark place,” Breggin said.
In June 2014, Carter entered an inpatient program at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility, and later began receiving therapy. According to court documents, Carter told her therapist that she was on the phone with Roy when he “stopped responding,” and that she later learned he had used carbon monoxide to kill himself.
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