Supreme Court won’t hear case about urg­ing sui­cide

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Richard Wolf and Joey Gar­ri­son

WASH­ING­TON – The Supreme Court re­fused Mon­day to hear a young Mas­sachusetts woman’s ap­peal of her con­vic­tion for en­cour­ag­ing a male friend’s sui­cide.

The jus­tices’ ac­tion leaves in­tact a de­ci­sion by that state’s high­est court that makes the woman’s words and texts crim­i­nal.

The two in­di­vid­u­als were teenagers in 2014, and their re­la­tion­ship, con­ducted mostly by phone and text, fo­cused in large part on 18-year-old Con­rad Roy’s fre­quent sui­cide at­tempts. Michelle Carter, 17, urged him for­ward, and Roy as­phyx­i­ated him­self in the cab of his truck.

In Septem­ber, a Mas­sachusetts pa­role board de­nied Carter, now 22, early re­lease. Carter be­gan a 15-month prison sen­tence in Fe­bru­ary af­ter be­ing con­victed of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in 2017.

Joseph Cataldo, Carter’s at­tor­ney, called the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to not take up the ap­peal “un­for­tu­nate.”

“Clearly many le­gal schol­ars and many in the le­gal com­mu­nity un­der­stand the dan­gers cre­ated by the un­prece­dented de­ci­sions of the Mas­sachusetts courts,” he said in an emailed state­ment. “To that end we will be weigh­ing our next steps in cor­rect­ing this in­jus­tice.”

Carter, of Plainville, Mas­sachusetts, pres­sured Roy by text mes­sages to kill him­self. His death was caused by in­hal­ing fumes from a gen­er­a­tor he put in­side a truck. Roy had at­tempted sui­cide mul­ti­ple times and strug­gled with de­pres­sion and men­tal ill­ness.

Carter had a phone call with Roy when he was parked in a Kmart lot, where the death oc­curred, and texted a friend that she told him to “get back in” the ve­hi­cle af­ter he stepped out.

Two state courts ruled that Carter en­gaged in wan­ton and reck­less con­duct, say­ing her speech was not pro­tected un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion be­cause it was “in­te­gral to un­law­ful con­duct.”

She re­ceived a 30-month jail sen­tence, half of which was sus­pended, and five years of pro­ba­tion.

Her lawyers said the con­vic­tion was based “on her words alone,” and she did not par­tic­i­pate di­rectly in Roy’s sui­cide.

“Con­duct that would be plainly reck­less for adults may seem com­pletely rea­son­able to teenagers, par­tic­u­larly when that ‘con­duct’ con­sists of on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions or so­cial me­dia posts,” they said in court pa­pers.


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