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Time Might Be Running Out in 'Suicide-by-Text' Case

There's a chance prosecutors will need to put Michelle Carter on trial by Aug. 11
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2016 3:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – Time could be running out for Massachusetts prosecutors seeking to put a teenager on trial for encouraging her boyfriend to take his own life by sending him dozens of text messages and telling him to "get back in" a truck filled with carbon monoxide fumes, the AP reports. Michelle Carter, 19, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of Conrad Roy III, 18, of Mattapoisett. Because she was charged as a youthful offender, she could face up to 20 years in prison, the same sentence an adult would if convicted. But Carter's lawyer has asked the state's highest court to either dismiss the manslaughter charge or require prosecutors to try her as a juvenile. If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees to send the case to juvenile court, prosecutors will have only until Aug. 11 to put her on trial. That's the day Carter turns 20, when she will age out of the juvenile system.

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But if the court upholds the prosecution's decision to charge her as a youthful offender, there is no race against the clock for putting her on trial and she could face adult punishment. For Roy's family, the possibility that Carter could receive no punishment is difficult to fathom. "We're anxiously awaiting the decision," said Janice Roy, Conrad's grandmother. "We're hoping that she is put on trial." The charge against Carter, of Plainville, drew national attention after transcripts of text messages were released publicly, showing she urged Roy to follow through on his plan to take his own life. Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, argues that her text messages were free speech protected by the First Amendment and do not constitute a crime. Massachusetts does not have a law against encouraging or assisting suicide. But during arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court in April, Assistant District Attorney Shoshana Stern said Carter engaged in "emotional manipulation" of a vulnerable teen who had struggled with depression. Click for more on the case. (Read more suicide stories.)

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