Editor’s note: After this story was published, Michelle Carter’s lawyers asked the US Supreme Court to review her 2017 conviction. For more on that, click here.
A highly-anticipated HBO documentary on Michelle Carter, “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter,” airs in two installments on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here’s a quick primer on the sensational case against Carter, who was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for goading a troubled teenager via texts and phone calls into killing himself.
1] The tragedy — Carter was 17 when she urged 18-year-old Conrad Roy III, of Mattapoisett, to kill himself in July 2014 — even after he told her he was too scared to go through with the act.
From 30 miles away, she ordered him back into a truck that was filling fast with carbon monoxide, then listened as he choked to death on the fumes in a Fairhaven parking lot.
2] The conviction — Following a bench trial that garnered national headlines, Judge Lawrence Moniz in June 2017 found Carter, of Plainville, guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The case riveted lawyers and the public alike as it delved into the painful interior lives of two teenagers who called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend, though they had seen each other in person only a few times.
One week before police found Roy dead in his pickup truck, he had texted Carter that he was having second thoughts.
“I don’t think I have it in me,” he wrote.
“I knew it,” Carter responded.
In another text, she wrote: “Hang yourself, jump off a building, stab yourself. I don’t know. There’s lots of ways.”
Still, Moniz ruled that Carter’s texts encouraging Roy to kill himself in the days leading up to the suicide did not result in his death.
It was Carter’s command during their last conversation, that Roy return to his truck — then filled with deadly fumes — and her subsequent failure to act that rose to the level of criminal behavior, Moniz ruled.
He sentenced Carter to serve 15 months behind bars, a term that was stayed while her appeal was pending.
3] The appeal — In February 2019, the state Supreme Judicial Court upheld Carter’s conviction and sentence, ruling that she acted with criminal intent when she “badgered” Roy into taking his own life.
“We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the judge’s finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender, and that the other legal issues presented by the defendant, including her First Amendment claim, lack merit,’’ Justice Scott L. Kafker wrote for the SJC. “We therefore affirm.”
4] The surrender, and what’s next — Days after the ruling, Carter was ordered to begin serving her sentence.
Her legal team has asked the US Supreme Court to review the case.
“The [Mass.] Supreme Judicial Court is the first court to have affirmed a conviction for a defendant who with her words alone advised, encouraged, or coerced another person to commit suicide, even though the defendant neither physically provided the means of death nor physically participated in the suicide or was even close to the scene,” Carter’s lawyers wrote in a recent filing with the US Supreme Court.
The attorneys added that “the Supreme Judicial Court created a direct conflict with at least three other state supreme courts about the application of the First Amendment in such circumstances. It also disregarded the precedents from this Court concerning the guarantee of Due Process.”