Law

Michelle Carter Texting Case Appeal Will Go to Supreme Judicial Court

The highest court in Massachusetts agreed to consider the controversial case.


Michelle Carter in a courtroom

Photo via AP/Charles Krupa

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will consider the case of Michelle Carter, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after urging her boyfriend to kill himself in phone calls and text messages.

In August, Carter was sentenced by the Taunton Juvenile Court to two and a half years in prison for her role in the death of Conrad Roy III. Rather than serving time immediately, Carter has remained on probation as her case makes its way through the appeals process. Now, according to the Boston Herald, the state’s highest court will make a decision in the controversial case, which could set a precedent for how much the language a defendant has used can be held against them.

Carter’s attorneys wrote in their February 5 appeal that the case “presents novel questions of constitutional and criminal law,” and will be key moving forward for anyone “who may be prosecuted for encouraging suicide with words alone,” according to the Herald. The lawyers argue that considering Carter’s words to be tools of manslaughter violates her First and Fifth Amendment rights.

The defense team also noted the historical context of Carter’s case. In the appeal, the attorneys wrote that never before has someone been charged with the manslaughter of a suicide victim, and “she neither provided the fatal means nor was present when the suicide occurred,” according to the Herald.     

In July 2014, Roy, who was 18 years old, killed himself in his truck using a method the then-17-year-old Carter suggested. In text messages released by the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, Carter encouraged Roy to carry out his plan to take his life and said, “It’s now or never,” when he expressed reluctance about going through with the act.