Michelle Carter, the Plainville woman convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for badgering her friend into killing himself, was denied early release by the Massachusetts Parole Board on Friday.
In a brief decision, two unidentified board members said they “remain troubled” that Carter actively encouraged Conrad Roy III to commit suicide in 2014 and prevented others from providing him assistance as he slowly asphyxiated in the cab of a pickup truck.
“The [Board] is troubled that Ms. Carter not only encouraged Mr. Conrad to take his own life, she actively prevented others from intervening in his suicide,’’ the decision said. “Ms. Carter’s self serving statements and behavior, leading up to and after his suicide, appear to be irrational and lacked sincerity. Ms. Carter needs to further address her causative factors that led to the governing offense. Release does not meet the legal standard.”
Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said the office had recommended a more severe sentence due to the “egregious nature of the crime” and Carter’s failure to acknowledge its gravity.
“It’s unfortunate that in the five years since Conrad’s death, the Parole Board found she still does not have sufficient insight into her crime and lacks empathy,” Miliote said in a statement. “As always, our concern is for the Roy family and the public’s safety.”
Roy’s aunt, Becki Maki, said in a statement provided by Quinn’s office that Carter still belongs in custody.
“Two members of our family addressed the Parole Board yesterday and asked for them to deny Michelle’s petition for parole,” Maki said. “We continue to feel that she should serve out the remainder of her jail sentence.”
But Joseph P. Cataldo, a lawyer for Carter, decried the board’s ruling.
He said the board’s decision was “obviously premised” on an “incorrect and dangerous prior legal ruling” of the state Supreme Judicial Court upholding Carter’s conviction.
“To that end, we have filed an appeal [of the conviction] to the United States Supreme Court,” he said.
Carter was 17 years old and had been out of a psychiatric hospital for about a month when she urged Roy, who was 18, to commit suicide on July 13, 2014, according to testimony in her Bristol Juvenile Court trial in 2017. The teens called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend, though they had seen each other in person only a few times.
Carter was 30 miles away from Roy and on the phone with him, listening as he inhaled carbon monoxide in his pickup truck in a Fairhaven parking lot. At one point, Roy told Carter he was getting out of the truck, but Carter ordered him back in.
She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a jury-waived trial in 2017 and sentenced by Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz to serve 15 months in prison. That sentence was put on hold until the Supreme Judicial Court upheld her conviction, and she began serving the sentence Feb. 11.
In its Feb. 6 ruling, the SJC unanimously rejected defense arguments that Carter’s conversations with Roy and the dozens of text messages and e-mails that they exchanged before his death were protected speech under the First Amendment.
Massachusetts’ involuntary manslaughter law covers “wanton and reckless conduct” that causes the death of another and that includes “overpowering [another] person’s will to live and resulting in a person’s death,’’ the court noted.
“We are therefore not punishing words alone . . . but reckless or wanton words causing death,’’ the SJC ruled. “Our common law provides sufficient notice that a person might be charged with involuntary manslaughter for reckless or wanton conduct, including verbal conduct, causing a victim to commit suicide.”
Cataldo, Carter’s attorney, said Friday, “It is never in society’s best interest to incarcerate anyone for the content of their speech where there was not a specific statute criminalizing such speech at the time it was made.”
The US Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will hear Carter’s appeal. The court has asked Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to weigh in on the legal questions raised by the high-profile case.
Healey’s office has been given until Nov. 22 to file a brief in the case, according to court records.