Suicide is generally a deeply personal choice resulting from a number of problems in the victim’s life, but what happens when one person pushes someone who might not have otherwise killed themselves into the act? That’s precisely the question up for debate in the involuntary manslaughter case against Michelle Carter. The case has some serious legal ramifications according to juvenile lawyers in San Diego.
While no one doubts that Carter’s boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, killed himself, what is up for debate is the teen girl’s role in the death. San Diego juvenile defense attorneys point out that manslaughter charges are usually reserved for accidents or negligence that ignore the possible risk to other person’s lives and eventually result in death (like the restaurateur charged with manslaughter for cutting corners that led to a deadly allergic reaction), but Carter, who is being charged as a minor since she was 17 at the time of the crime) has been accused with pushing Roy to kill himself via text message while she was over 30 miles away. Her actions weren’t accidental or negligent, but she certainly wasn’t directly involved with the suicide either.
Carter even confessed her guilt to a friend via text, writing “his death was my fault. Like, honestly I could have stopped it. I was the one on the phone with him and he got out of the car because he was working and he got scared and I (expletive) told him to get back in … If they read my messages I’m done. His family will hate me and I could go to jail.” At very least, the text proves the girl knew what she was doing was legally questionable and that she holds herself responsible.
Carter’s attorney argued that “even if she were reckless, the evidence will show that she didn’t cause his death.” Ultimately, this is exactly what the court will be left to decide -did her reckless and thoughtless texts cause Roy to kill himself or would he have done it anyway? Additionally, could her texts be protected as free speech under the First Amendment regardless of the outcome? In a technological world where people frequently post comments on social media profiles of friends, schoolmates and even strangers urging them to “just kill yourself already,” this court case could have far-reaching ramifications, which is why juvenile defense lawyers from San Diego and the rest of the country are keeping their eyes on the outcome. If Carter is found guilty, it could result in many similar cases being brought up against bullies who use text messages and social media to push their victims to kill themselves.
This case already went before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, since Carter’s lawyers already appealed the indictment. The court ruled the girl’s “virtual presence” and “constant pressure” leading up to the suicide were enough proof for an indictment. Whether there will be enough evidence to uphold a conviction if she loses her trial will be another matter.
If you have any questions about involuntary manslaughter charges and what may or may not fit the definition of this specific crime, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego juvenile crimes attorney Peter M. Liss.
Update: Since this post was written, the court reached a decision in the case. The Juvenile Court judge convicted her of the crime of involuntary manslaughter finding her reckless conduct did cause the suicide. The judge explained that Carter set the suicide in motion and failed to take steps to stop it.
Creative Commons Image by Peter Van den Bossche