A Massachusetts teenager who sent her boyfriend text messages urging him to commit suicide will stand trial for his death.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled on July 1 that there is probable cause to indict Michelle Carter, then 17, for the 2014 death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III, The Associated Press reports.
The court’s decision said evidence suggested Carter engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion” that targeted Roy’s insecurities.
Her instructions to “get back in” his truck, which was full of carbon monoxide fumes, in the final moments of his life were a “direct, causal link” to his death, according to the court.
"In sum, we conclude that there was probable cause to show that the coercive quality of the defendant's verbal conduct overwhelmed whatever willpower the eighteen year old victim had to cope with his depression, and that but for the defendant's admonishments, pressure and instructions, the victim would not have gotten back into the truck and poisoned himself to death," Justice Robert Cordy wrote on behalf of the court’s unanimous ruling.
DeadState obtained the transcript of the text exchanges made between Carter and Roy prior to his death.
Carter: You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.
Roy: I don’t get it either. I don’t know.
Carter: So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then. All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.
Roy: I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up.
Carter: No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You kept pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action. You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off. You just have to do it. Do you want to do it now?
Roy then asked Carter whether it was too late to kill himself because it was light outside. He told her he loved her and was going to go back to sleep:
Carter: No. It’s probably the best time now because everyone is sleeping. Just go somewhere in your truck and no one is really out there right now because it’s an awkward time. If you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it, and you can say you’ll do it tomorrow, but you probably won’t. Tonight? Love you.
The text messages continued throughout the early morning, in which Roy expressed doubt over whether to commit suicide. Carter’s responses urge him to do it, and soon:
Carter: You’re so hesitant because you keeping over thinking it and keep pushing it off. You just need to do it, Conrad. The more you push it off, the more it will eat at you. You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is tum the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.
Hours later at around 5:08 p.m., Roy returned from the beach and told Carter he was stressed about committing suicide.
Carter: You’re fine. It’s gonna be okay. You just gotta do it, babe. You can’t think about it.
Roy: Okay. Okay. I got this.
Carter agreed, and then asked whether Roy had deleted their text messages. He said he had, but that she would continue to send him messages:
Carter: I will until you turn on the generator.
Later, the two spoke on the phone for 43 minutes. Court documents state that at some point during the call, Roy exited his truck out of fear, but Carter convinced him to get back in.
Roy’s body was found in his truck after his parents reported him missing.
At the time of his death, it had been more than a year since Carter and Roy had seen one another in person, even though they lived only 50 miles apart, AP reports. Their two-year relationship consisted mostly of text messages and emails.
Carter’s attorney, Joseph Cataldo, argued that her text messages were protected under the First Amendment as free speech and that they did not cause Roy to kill himself. He also claimed Roy was a depressed teenager who previously tried to take his own life and was determined to do so this time.
The court found that enough evidence exists to pursue manslaughter charges against Carter.
"At trial, it's proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard, and I'm confident that ultimately, after trial, Michelle Carter will be acquitted," Cataldo said.