A MA judge has found Michelle Carter, who was a teenager when prosecutors say she sent a fellow teenager text messages urging him to suicide, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. "But it didn't work for you and I did it for too long", she wrote in a July 21, 2014, text.
FILE - In this August 24, 2015 file photo, Michelle Carter listens to defense attorney Joseph P. Cataldo argue for an involuntary manslaughter charge against her to be dismissed at Juvenile Court in New Bedford, Mass. Carter is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly pressuring Conrad Roy III, 18, of Fairhaven, Mass., to commit suicide on July 13, 2014. "But you [expletive] did it and I'm so sorry I didn't save you", Carter, now 20, wrote to her deceased boyfriend.
In another text sent the day Roy died, Carter wrote: "You can't think about it". "You're dealing with an individual who wanted to take his own life".
Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, said the judge has a hard task in determining whether Carter's actions rise to the level of manslaughter.
Carter was 17 when she sent Roy dozens of messages urging him to take his own life.
Conrad Roy was 18 when he died in July 2014 of carbon monoxide poisoning after locking himself in his truck.
Carter was not taken into custody and will remain on bail. "The court finds that the conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy".
The judge said instructing Roy to get back into the truck was willful and wanton behavior.
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At her trial, closing arguments for which concluded Tuesday afternoon, her defense team argued Roy would have committed suicide with or without Carter's influence.
Prosecutors have argued that Carter's text messages support their claim that Carter caused Roy's death by "wantonly and recklessly" helping him poison himself.
She did not testify at the trial and is now awaiting a verdict and, if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison.
Carter's defense attorney had maintained that the case was one of suicide, not homicide. In text messages to a friend, she described hearing his finals words and breaths on the phone.
Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the case also presents some novel issues of law on the use of cellphones and text messages.
"The wrinkle here is whether she coerced him or pressured him into doing something that he wasn't in a position to rationally and autonomously decide to do because he was in such a depressive state", said Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University.
In order to convict Carter, the judge would have to find that prosecutors had proven the elements of manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt, a much higher legal standard to reach than the probable cause that was needed for the grand jury to indict her.
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