By Richard Ray
In July 2014, Conrad Roy, 18, killed himself. He was found dead in a Massachusetts parking lot of carbon Monoxide poisoning. Michelle Carter, then 17 was eventually charged with his death after she made incriminating statements to a classmate that she was responsible for his death and could have stopped it. Subsequent checks of her emails and text revealed a complicated tale of two teens in desperate need of help… from others.
In June (2017) she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Conrad Roy’s death. In Massachusetts involuntary manslaughter is defined as an unintentional killing resulting from recklessness or criminal negligence. In handing down his decision the judge (she chose to waive a jury trial) called her behavior reckless. She was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in which she would have to serve 15 months of that sentence in prison, the rest suspended and five years probation. However, she is allowed to stay free pending her exhaustion of all appeals. She was sentenced as a youthful offender since she was only 17 at the time of the crime (now 20) though charged as an adult. She faced the possibility of a maximum of 20 years.
The case is complicated, but from all the facts that I have read, it does appear that Michelle Carter deserves to be punished in some form for her role in Conrad Roy’s death. By all accounts, including several videos that he made and kept hidden from most, excluding Michelle, Conrad was a troubled young man who contemplated suicide often. He shared these thoughts with Michelle, who at first appeared to try and discourage him.
However, that discouragement did not last and eventually she became complicit in suggesting different ways he could and should kill himself. The prosecution labeled them as a couple, but there was little evidence that they had physically seen each other beyond a few times after meeting on separate family vacations in Florida. Her defense also tried to introduce evidence to suggest that Michelle was in need of mental health counseling since she had been diagnosed with an eating disorder and been prescribed anti-depressants.
Conrad Roy was indeed a troubled and conflicted young man. It may be fair to say that, he would have eventually succeeded in killing himself after several failed attempts and even if he had never met Michelle Carter. However, the tipping point in her guilt and responsibility is that on the specific night of his death Conrad removed himself from his car after his first attempt and text Michelle saying that he was scared. Her response for him to get back in the truck was absolutely reckless and was a direct and proximate cause in his death that evening, regardless of whether he was troubled and may have done in the future.
This was not simply someone callously telling someone on the internet or social media to go kill themselves. This was someone with a relationship with a person who had specific and unique knowledge of both the person’s mental state as well as the physical state at the time. To tell someone to go back in and finish is reckless and Michelle Carter criminally bears some responsibility for Conrad’s death. She had both the means to tell him to stop as well as call 911 to report his location. She did neither. The fact that Conrad was troubled, suicidal and may have eventually killed himself is no excuse for her actions and behaviors. Her sentencing and any perceived leniency may reflect the extenuating and difficult circumstances in her case.
I write about the need for empathy all the time. It is not necessarily our job in society to play hero to everyone troubled or in distress, but we all need to understand that a lack of empathy or blatant disregard for others can come with consequences.
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