Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman who encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide through text messages, was sentenced today (Aug. 3) to two-and-a-half years in jail after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. She will have to serve at least 15 months of her sentence, which for now is stayed as the case is appealed.
Carter, 17 when her boyfriend Conrad Roy III died sitting in a truck he filled with carbon monoxide, was convicted by a juvenile court in June. Roy, 18, had texted Carter from the truck to say he was scared, but she told him to “get back in,” following similar texts in which she urged him to go through with his plan to kill himself. Prosecutors said Carter was desperate for attention and wanted to be seen as a grieving girlfriend, while her defense said she had a history of mental illness — as did Roy himself.
Carter’s conviction is a controversial one, as Quartz’s Ephrat Livni reported in June. The judge ruled that Carter had a duty to inform authorities of Roy’s plans and urge him not to commit suicide, since she created the “toxic” situation in the first place. But there is no law in Massachusetts that requires someone to report a suicide attempt, or that bans encouraging it. The verdict could set a new legal precedent.