TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — A judge handed down a guilty verdict Friday morning in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michelle Carter, a 20-year-old woman who urged her boyfriend to kill himself back in 2014 when the two were teenagers.
The trial garnered international attention and conversation about teen suicide, depression and the impacts of texting.
“The Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Carter’s actions, and also her failure to act, where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy since she had put him into that toxic environment, constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct,” Judge Lawrence Moniz said before he rendered his verdict. “Said conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy.”
Judge Moniz allowed Carter to remain out on bail until her sentencing on August 3.
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Conrad Roy III took his own life on July 12, 2014 by using a generator to fill his pickup truck with carbon monoxide in a Fairhaven parking lot. But prosecutors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts charged Carter with causing his death, arguing her constant urging that he go through with his suicide plans was akin to killing him.
The judge said the encouragement alone was not enough to prove she caused his death, but the combination of those messages and the evidence that Carter told him to get back in his truck during the suicide attempt is what led to his determination that she was guilty.
“Ms. Carter…had reason to know that Mr. Roy had followed her instruction and had placed himself in the toxic environment of that truck,” Moniz said.
He said the fact that Roy had previously attempted suicide had no bearing on this case.
Roy’s father, Conrad Roy Jr., briefly thanked the judge, prosecution and police for their work on the case.
“This has been a very tough time for our family, and we’d just like to process this verdict that we’re happy with,” Roy told reporters.
“Although we are very pleased with the verdict, in reality there are no winners here today,” Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said. “Conrad, an 18-year-old boy, is dead. And a young woman is now convicted of causing his death. Two families have been torn apart and will be affected by this for years to come.”
She said she hoped the verdict would bring closure to Roy’s family and friends.
“He was a wonderful young man who had his whole life in front of him. He was making efforts to better himself and to find his way through a difficult stage of his life,” Rayburn said. “I know we all wish that he had the opportunity to grow up into adulthood, to become a tugboat captain and to enjoy his future.”
She also acknowledged the great deal of attention the case has received.
“We fully understand that this was a unique case that dealt with a lot of important issues in our society today,” Rayburn said. “But in the end, the case was about one young man and one young woman who were brought together by tragic circumstances. The evidence clearly showed but not for the actions of Michelle Carter, Conrad Roy would still be alive the morning of July 13, 2014.”
Carter’s defense attorney Joseph Cataldo said he was disappointed in the verdict but declined to comment further while sentencing is still pending.
Cataldo had argued that Roy made the decision to take his own life, pointing to a previous suicide attempt and evidence of suicidal thoughts dating back years. In a suicide note left behind for Carter, Roy thanked her for trying to help him and did not ascribe blame.
The defense also hired an expert witness, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, who testified that he believed Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated” by antidepressants when she sent the texts urging Roy to take his own life.
Judge Moniz said he did not find Dr. Breggin credible.