The Legal Tea
The Legali(teas) of Today’s Pop Culture:
I Love You, Now Die – A Legal Analysis
At the beginning of the month, HBO released another true crime documentary, I Love You, Now Die. The documentary explores the case of Michelle Carter, a teenager convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts, for encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to commit suicide. The documentary describes Carter and Roy’s relationship as one based almost exclusively over the phone.
On July 13, 2014, when Roy took his own life, a series of text messages uncovered revealed Carter’s startling words of encouragement and pressure for Roy to commit suicide. In one message, Carter told him, “You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.” On July 13, 2014, Roy was found dead from carbon monoxide poising, after he had followed Carter’s instructions, and used a gas-powered water pump to commit suicide in his truck. Carter explained to her friend via text message, that during Roy’s suicide attempt, he got scared, exited the vehicle, and called Carter. At this point, Carter instructed him to get back into the truck and complete his suicide attempt.
Thereafter, Carter was tried in juvenile court as she was 17 when Roy committed suicide. At the advice of counsel, Carter waived her right to a jury. Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz ruled that Carter, 20, was guilty of involuntary manslaughter due to her involvement in Roy’s suicide. In Massachusetts, involuntary manslaughter is an unlawful killing that was unintentionally caused as the result of the defendants' wanton or reckless conduct. MGL Chapter 265, Section 13. In this case, the Judge found that the wanton or reckless conduct was Carter’s pressuring of Roy to get back into his truck, breaking any free will Roy may have had, that caused him to rule that the elements of involuntary manslaughter had been met. The Judge acknowledged that until that point, Roy was making his own decisions, but it was when Carter told him to go back in, that her conduct became wanton and reckless, directly causing Roy to do as instructed.
Carter’s conviction was upheld in February by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which said it “rejected the defendant’s claim that her words to the victim, without any physical act on her part and even without her physical presence at the scene, could not constitute wanton or reckless conduct sufficient to support a charge of manslaughter.” Although Roy died when Carter was a juvenile and the case was in juvenile court, she was 22 by the time she was ordered to prison. Carter is now serving her sentence at the Bristol County House of Correction adult facility.
Interestingly, since the HBO documentary aired, news broke that Carter’s attorney had filed his appeal to the United States Supreme Court on the basis of free speech. Should this case be taken up by SCOTUS, we will be sure to keep you in the loop.
If you have any questions about this case or would like to discuss, contact us.
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