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August 3, 2017

Distinct sentencing advice from family members for teen guilty of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging suicide

This local article, fully headlined "Conrad Roy’s aunt: Give Michelle Carter 20 years; Defendant’s dad wants probation," reports in the very different advice being given to a juvenile judge in Massachusetts in a high-profile case due to be sentenced today. Here are the details:

A grieving aunt of teen suicide victim Conrad Roy III is looking for a 20-year prison sentence for Michelle Carter tomorrow on the heels of her conviction in the blockbuster suicide-by-text case — but the girl’s worried dad is pleading for probation. “I believe she should be kept far away from society,” wrote Kim Bozzi, Roy’s aunt, in a statement she said she plans to read at Carter’s sentencing inside Taunton Trial Court.

“Take away the spotlight that she so desperately craves. Twenty years may seem extreme but it is still twenty more than Conrad will ever have,” Bozzi said in the written statement she gave to the Herald.

But David Carter, Michelle’s father, begged for probation and “continued counselling” in a July letter to Judge Lawrence Moniz. “She will forever live with what she has done and I know will be a better person because of it,” David Carter wrote in the signed letter, provided to the Herald. “I ask of you to invoke leniency in your decision-making process for my loving child Michelle.”...

The judge found that Carter caused the death of Roy, who killed himself in a Fairhaven Kmart parking lot in 2014 by filling his truck with carbon monoxide. Carter, 20, of Plainville, who had an almost entirely virtual relationship with Roy, goaded him into killing himself through a series of texts and calls. The Mattapoisett teen left the truck as it filled with deadly fumes, but according to testimony at Carter’s trial, she told him on the phone to “get back in.”

“I’m unsure when she decided to set her sick plan into motion or why, but when she did she did it relentlessly, it was calculated and it was planned down to a T,” Bozzi wrote in the victim-impact statement. “She preyed on his vulnerabilities, he trusted her, which in turn, cost him his life.” Bozzi, who attended every court appearance, told the Herald other family members are prepared to speak as well. She said Carter’s conviction was a relief and that “what happens next is up to God and a judge.”

Prior related post:

UPDATE:  Michelle Carter received a prison sentence of 2.5 years, but only half has to be actually served in prison as explained in this CNN article.  It starts this way:

Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of her boyfriend, was sentenced Thursday to a two-and-a-half-year term, with 15 months in prison and the balance suspended plus a period of supervised probation.

"This court must and has balanced between rehabilitation, the promise that rehabilitation would work and a punishment for the actions that have occurred," said Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz.

August 3, 2017 at 09:12 AM | Permalink


She is guilty of speaking her mind that is all she is guilty of. I hope the law and the conviction gets tossed upon appeal.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 3, 2017 11:45:03 AM

Have to agree with Daniel. From what I've seen I believe this shouldn't have even made it to trial (or adjudication as the case may be).

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 3, 2017 11:52:56 AM

Never could see suicide myself. If someone missed me off enough I am thinking of a killing trust me myself would not be my first choice

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Aug 3, 2017 12:43:56 PM

As for this case. I think you are both reaching. This is no different than telling fire in a crowded location when no fire exists. Just because he was either mentally weak enough or stupid enough to listen does not excuse her actions. Sorry but involuntary manslaughter is appropriate.

No I me in the old days would probably have pulled my gun and informed her if she was that anxious to see someone die I would be glad to give her an up close and personal look when the bullet goes through her empty head

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Aug 3, 2017 12:53:06 PM

I find this whole thing problematic but the fact she was egging him on including after he stepping out of furnace, so to speak, and pushed him to go back in, is the sort of direct incitement in the heat of things that the law is concerned about. This wasn't just her over a span of time encouraging him to commit suicide or that his life was worthless.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 3, 2017 1:21:42 PM

[sentencing hearing including victim impact statements are being streamed online now]

Posted by: Joe | Aug 3, 2017 2:32:46 PM


The appeal should be interesting. I personally don't think the incitement exception applies because I don't think someone can incite anyone to anything via a text message (or e-mail for that matter). To me the incitement test is predicated on the incitement being in-person. That's was the fact pattern in Brandenburg. Indeed, Brandenburg v. Ohio has always been seen as less restrictive of speech than Holmes' "clear and present danger" test. But even under the clear and present danger test she wins because while the danger her speech represented was clear it was not a present danger because she wasn't present. Look at Abrams vs United States. There the people were throwing flyers out of windows. Holmes didn't think that met his test and throwing flyers out of windows is the closest fact pattern to a text message.

In other words, if she had been there in the Kmart parking lot with him urging him to get back in the car then the case for incitement would be much stronger, perhaps even pervasive to me. But the lack of her physical presence makes her words far more like protected advocacy than incitement.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 3, 2017 4:50:16 PM

Daniel, I agree if she was physically present it would carry significantly more weight.

This guy could of been persuaded by a few songs or even the sick movies out today, that maybe cashing in is the way to go. Has to be more responsibility for a person with their own life than just txts and a phone call.

I dont see what a term of imprisonment would accomplish except to satisfy the guys parents temporarily, a deflated victory. Afterwards they realize, it doesnt bring him back.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Aug 3, 2017 9:57:58 PM

"To me the incitement test is predicated on the incitement being in-person."

I find this artificial though text message might not do it. It is more than just tossing a bunch of flyers anyhow -- it is back/forth communication between two individuals. I think incitement by phone is possible, that is voice. Skype too.

If the conviction is legitimate, the sentence to me sounds fair.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 3, 2017 10:10:34 PM

The intentional act of the victim broke the chain of causation.

Suicide is not a crime. Solicitation of suicide is not solicitation of a crime.

I say to a lawyer, go fuck yourself. I am now guilty of rape, according to this ridiculous judge.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 3, 2017 11:20:38 PM

There are two questions:

(1) Can the state criminalize the sort of conduct here?

(2) Did it actually do so?

If the answer to the questions is yes, and I think it plain that the answer to (1) is yes, then she probably got off a little easy.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 4, 2017 11:50:55 AM


The problem with the intimacy argument is that traditionally the kind of one-to-one behavior you find problematic has been evaluated under the "true threats" exception rather than the incitement exception. The difficulty with the true threat approach is that, at least explicitly, she didn't threaten him. This is why I think the appeal's ultimate resolution of her case should be from a 1A point of view, interesting. I do understand the moral intuition that her behavior is wrong somehow. However, it doesn't fit /neatly/ into the category of exceptions that SCOTUS has delineated, which means that if her appeal is going to be rejected they will have to massage those categories somehow. Can they do that? Yes. Will they do that? I doubt it. This court as we have just seen in The Slants case tends to be hostile to restrictions on free speech. I think it unlikely, but not impossible, that they will uphold her guilty verdict.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 4, 2017 12:23:34 PM

Daniel, I don't think "true threats" is the criteria here. It's some sort of criminal incitement. That's a traditional exception and fits within Supreme Court case law. And, I don't think you have to be there in person necessarily for that to occur.

The Slants case was a case where some sort of content or viewpoint based exception was overturned. A traditional unconstitutional condition.

I think there is room for appeal here but think the incitement to return into the van (as compared to her convincing him generally to commit suicide) is a hard case for her.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 4, 2017 1:54:32 PM

Joe. What crime did she incite? Is getting into a truck a crime? Is suicide a crime in Mass.? Did his suicide disturb the peace, the only crime I can come up with, incitement to disturb the peace. That is not the charge that was tried.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 4, 2017 3:14:24 PM

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