On July 20, 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. He had a long history of mental health issues; he had attempted suicide prior to his final attempt. Prior to succumbing to a loss of oxygen, he got scared and left the truck. However, he had been texting his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, throughout the process. After telling Carter that he was scared, Carter told him, "get back in."
Today, Judge Lawrence Moniz of the Bristol County Juvenile Court in Taunton, Massachusetts found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter and she now faces a sentence of 20 years in prison. The judge said the following:
[Carter] instructs Roy to get back in the truck knowing of all the feelings he has exchanged with her; his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns. This court finds that by instructing Mr. Roy to get back in the truck constitutes wanton and reckless conduct by Ms. Carter, creating a situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to Mr. Roy.
By determining that Carter's text messages constituted wanton and reckless conduct, Judge Moniz reasoned that she fulfilled the requisite standard for involuntary manslaughter. Even though Carter did not personally engage in conduct that directly led to Roy's death, the court found that a series of phone calls and text messages demonstrated guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that her conduct recklessly contributed to his suicide.
This case received considerable media coverage and brought forth several arguments ranging from whether the text messages were protected under the First Amendment and not prosecutable, to whether a second or third-party could be found liable for a suicidal act. Ultimately, the judge found for the prosecution's assertion that Carter's conduct was wanton and reckless — that while Roy was already suicidal and could have committed suicide at another point, Carter's text messages dealt the final blow to the young man ending his life in the summer of 2014.