The US Supreme Court on Thursday asked Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to respond to a request from Michelle Carter to have the nation’s highest court review her involuntary manslaughter conviction for goading a teenager to take his own life in 2014.
Healey’s office earlier this month had waived its right to respond to Carter’s request, known as a petition for a writ of certiorari. But on Thursday, the high court asked Healey’s office to respond in writing by Sept. 23, records show.
“In our view, this new development reflects the Court’s recognition that Michelle’s petition raises serious legal questions about whether her conviction violated the U.S. Constitution,” said a lawyer for Carter, Daniel N. Marx, in an e-mail message.
Healey’s office said prosecutors will prepare a response as requested by the high court.
Carter, of Plainville, was 17 when she urged 18-year-old Conrad Roy, of Mattapoisett, to kill himself in a July 2014 series of text messages and phone calls — even after he told her he was too scared to go through with it. After a bench trial that drew national headlines, Judge Lawrence Moniz in June 2017 found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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. In February, 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.
Days after the ruling, Carter was ordered to begin serving her sentence.
When Carter filed her request for high court review in July, her legal team released a statement blasting the conviction, focusing on “two of the many flaws in the case against her.”
“First, charging Ms. Carter based on her words alone violated the First Amendment and the decision upholding her conviction created a conflict among state supreme courts,” the statement said. “Second, her conviction violated due process because the vague common law of involuntary manslaughter fails to provide guidance to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement in morally fraught cases involving suicide.”