TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The young Plainville woman convicted in her boyfriend’s suicide has been sent to prison to begin her sentence despite several last-minute efforts by her attorneys to keep her out of jail.
Michelle Carter, 22, was taken into custody Monday afternoon after a brief hearing in which Judge Lawrence Moniz granted a motion by prosecutors to revoke her stay of sentence.
Carter’s 15-month sentence had been delayed until after her state appeals were exhausted, which happened last week when the Supreme Judicial Court upheld her involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.
She will serve her time at the Bristol House of Correction in Dartmouth, according to the District Attorney’s office.
“We feel like justice has been served,” said Becky Maki, an aunt of Conrad Roy. “We know that this is a novel case and there’s a lot of debate on whether or not Michelle Carter would go to jail for what happened, and we really are grateful to the court system for seeing that this is something that shouldn’t happen.”
Conrad Roy was 18 when he killed himself in a Fairhaven parking lot using a gas-powered pump to fill his truck with carbon monoxide. Investigators later discovered a trove of text messages with Carter, then 17, which showed she encouraged him to take his life and helped him plan his death.
“Leading up to his death, we thought he was in a place where he was recovering from his mental health issues,” Maki said. “Reading the text messages and understanding part of the reason that his life ended was because he had somebody that he trusted and confided in that steered him in the wrong direction.”
Conrad Roy’s aunt says the family thought Conrad was recovering from mental health issues before his death. “Part of the reason his life ended was because he had someone who he confided in who steered him in the wrong direction.” pic.twitter.com/Rd04kxgOkS— Steph Machado (@StephMachado) February 11, 2019
Carter’s case is not yet over. Her attorneys have vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court by filing a writ of certiorari to the nation’s highest court. They unsuccessfully argued Monday that Carter should not have to serve her sentence until after that appeal.
We have just been notified that the SJC has denied Michelle Carter’s motion for a stay of sentence in her case.— Bristol DA (@BristolDA) February 11, 2019
“It will be a tragedy if ultimately this case goes up to the U.S. Supreme Court and they decide she was wrongfully convicted, that she will have done her time,” said Daniel Marx, one of Carter’s attorneys. “No one will be able to give that time back to her, that’s why we stay sentences.”
Joseph Cataldo, her defense attorney who represented her at trial in 2017, said if Carter could go back four years, she would “not have charted the same course that she did.” But he contends that she is not criminally responsible for Conrad’s tragic suicide.
“It’s also troubling in the sense that this is what, sadly, Conrad Roy wanted. He left her a love note thanking her before he drove off and did that,” Cataldo told reporters. “That’s what he wanted, and now she’s being put in jail for something he wanted.”
Cataldo said he thinks the issue of whether it’s a crime to encourage or help someone commit suicide should be decided by state legislatures, not courts.
He pointed to a case in Minnesota, State v. William Melchert-Dinkel, where the Supreme Court overturned a conviction of a man under the state’s assisted suicide law. In that case, the court struck down part of the statute that criminalized “advising and encouraging” suicide, keeping only the part criminalizing “assisting” suicide. Melchert-Dinkel was accused of posing as a female nurse online and convincing two people to kill themselves.
“Any laws need to be narrowly drawn by the legislature,” Cataldo said. “We have a split among state Supreme Courts, so it’s a good issue that the United States Supreme Court should give guidance.”
Judge Moniz did not only convict Carter for manslaughter because she “encouraged” Roy to kill himself, but also because she instructed him to do it, telling him to “get back in” his truck when it was filling with deadly gas. That act, the judge ruled and the SJC upheld, constituted manslaughter.
“Her instructions caused his death,” the SJC wrote in the decision last week.
Roy’s aunt, flanked by family members, said she hopes Conrad’s story helps raise awareness for mental health issues and suicide prevention.
“His story has touched so many hearts,” Maki said. “His life mattered.”
Special Sherriff Bruce Assad tells Eyewitness News Carter will be in an isolated medical unit and will be watched 24/7 until further notice.
"We did this based on her age, circumstances and the high-profile nature of this case," Assad explained.
Assad said they have no clear timeline on when they will decide where to place her once she is medically and mentally evaluated.
"It depends on where she is medically and mentally," Assad said. "We are set up to make sure that she is taken care of appropriately and things are done in the best interest of the department as well as her."
- Crisis Text Line
- Find a Crisis Center
- Rhode Island Samaritans - (401) 272-4044 or (800) 365-4044
- Massachusetts Samaritans - 1–877-870‑4673
- Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention
- National Hopeline Network - 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- National Institute for Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Suicide