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'Suicide-by-Text' Case Is Back in Court

Attorney says Michelle Carter was 'misguided,' but not guilty of manslaughter
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2018 4:32 PM CDT
Michelle Carter   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool, File)

(Newser) – The attorney for a woman who, as a teen, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide told the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday that his client was "trying to help another troubled teen with a very difficult mental-health situation" the Boston Herald reports. The actions of Michelle Carter, now 22, may have been "misguided," Daniel Marx argued during oral arguments at Carter's appeal hearing, but "she certainly didn't kill" Conrad Roy III, who committed suicide in 2014 by filling the cab of his pickup truck with carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot. During Carter's initial trial, prosecutors said that she had persuaded Roy to kill himself in text message exchanges and later told him via phone to "get back in" to the pickup as it was filling with toxic fumes.

Assistant District Attorney Shosana Stern on Thursday told the court that Carter knew she had "significant" leverage over Roy and steered him toward suicide, the AP reports. As justices consider the case, they will be weighing two main questions, a New England Law professor tells Boston.com. First, was there enough evidence for the judge to find Carter guilty? Second, does a conviction based on her words, "rather than anything she did directly," violate the First Amendment? "Legally, it always struck me as a reach, a stretch by the prosecution to charge this manslaughter," Daniel Medwed, another law professor, tells the website. Carter was sentenced to 15 months in prison, but the sentence has been on hold pending appeal. It may be months before the court makes a ruling, WBZ4 reports. (Read more Michelle Carter stories.)

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