Terrible Person, Not a Criminal
Michelle Carter is a terrible person who deserves to live with crippling guilt for her actions toward Conrad Roy. But she’s not a criminal and her conviction sets a dangerous precedent.
She and her attorneys were smart to seek a bench trial. The verdict of a dispassionate executor of the law should have put her in better stead than risking a jury trial. Shockingly, Judge Lawrence Moniz found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The facts of the case are undisputed: Conrad Roy took his own life. Michelle Carter encouraged him to do it.
Civil Case Dismissed
What brought this to mind was the news earlier this month that the Roy family’s wrongful death suit against Carter was dismissed “with prejudice and without costs.” Translation: the civil case was garbage.
So… she can’t even be tried civilly for death by text, but she’s been convicted of manslaughter. Got it.
In the criminal case, the relevant legal matter is that of causation. The manslaughter conviction by Judge Moniz asserts that Carter caused Roy’s death via text message. That’s insane and sets a dangerous precedent. The BU Law Review offers this excellent, in-depth note on the case.
Just as shocking is the fact that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction. When she was first convicted by Judge Moniz, I presumed it was just a weak judge giving in to public pressure. The affirmation by the SJC makes clear that this case must go to SCOTUS. We need clarity around a potential new causation standard, one that needs to be tested against the First Amendment.
Made Up Crime, Slippery Slope
This is a travesty of justice. The rest of us can only hope that we are never convicted of a made-up crime by an activist judge.
While the state courts have screwed this up, my hope is that SCOTUS will take up this important First Amendment case. The slippery slope I fear is that an array of nasty comments could become criminal acts. Words are not violence and we must affirm that. If we don’t, we’ll fill our courts with teenage keyboard commandos and we’ll be well on our way to prosecuting thought crimes.
Today we’re told that a spike in suicides followed the initial release of “13 Reasons Why”. Will those involved with the show also be charged? Given what’s happened to Michelle Carter, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Update: As I should have expected, the “study” linking an increase in suicides to “13 Reasons Why” is hot garbage. Apologies. I should know better. https://reason.com/2019/05/07/13-reasons-why-suicide-study-junk-science/
…but I’m not wrong about the Carter case.
None of this is meant to trivialize bullying or the mental health challenges faced by many. As a society, we’ve made great strides on both fronts and must continue working to protect the most vulnerable.