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Michelle Carter Committed No Crime

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.

 


Causation

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.

 

Worth Noting

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.

Massachusetts Ballot Questions, Answered

Here’s the latest polling I could find:

Hillary is going to win Massachusetts. The down ticket races are mostly uninteresting. The ballot questions, as is often the case, are where it’s at!

Text of the questions here.

An unbiased analysis, here.


 Question 1 — Slots – YES

“A fool and his money are soon parted.”

If you want to move money from your pocket, through a slot machine at -X% implied return, and into cities and towns, who am I to stop you?

Will this project achieve the lofty returns the “pro” group is touting? Probably not. Is it immediately accretive to the state’s coiffeurs? It sure is.

Vote yes to accept tax donations from willing gamblers!


Question 2 — Charter Schools – YES

This one needed its own post, here.


Question 3 — Conditions for Farm Animals – NO

A solution in search of a problem.

The market is evolving rapidly. Walmart is going cage-free. Even McDonald’s is moving in this direction. Cage-free eggs are widely available, so if you’re passionate about this issue, you can buy them in most markets right now.

California is the only other state with similar regulations. Naturally, they now also enjoy the highest egg prices in the country.

Animal welfare matters, but there’s only one farm in the state of MA not currently in compliance with the proposed standards, which won’t be implemented until January 1, 2022. The real impact of this measure will be on egg imports. We’ll no longer be able to buy eggs from out of state producers who don’t comply with this law, closing the market and raising prices. This is why there’s no opposition from local producers. They’ll enjoy higher prices with no compliance cost.

As is the case in California, this will raise prices. I love eggs. They’re an affordable protein choice that many people enjoy. By passing this measure, we raise prices without making meaningful change in a market that’s currently self-correcting. Lower income families will be disproportionately impacted by this unnecessary regulation.

Vote NO on 3.

More excellent analysis, here.

 


Question 4 — Marijuana Legalization – YES

Stop the madness… the “Reefer Madness”, that is.

The arguments against this are silly. You’ve probably seen the reefer madness themed ad with pot shops on every corner and a high school kid walking out of a store with a bong and a bag full of evil weed-related product. That’s a gross misrepresentation of what this law will allow.

If you’re not yet on the YES side of this, here’s your reality check:

It’s already 99% legal and widely available. This measure, while far from perfect (it should be legal, but not so heavily regulated and taxed), reduces crime and criminal earning potential. It has the potential to create massive tax revenue. The business exists. Demand is strong. This measure helps ensure that consumers enjoy a safer product with controls around the supply chain.

This doesn’t create an industry. The industry exists and is robust. It’s currently run by criminal gangs. Let’s put them out of business, enjoy some additional tax revenue, and finally accept the fact that marijuana is no more harmful than the cigarettes and alcohol that we’re all too happy to tax and regulate. Grow up — we dish out opiates like candy. Kids are getting into them. But you’re concerned about legal weed when no one overdoses?

As an added bonus, if you don’t want to smoke weed, you still won’t have to!

Vote YES on 4.

Vote YES on Question 2

This one is surprisingly contentious. I was going to write a single post covering all four ballot questions, but this one really needed its own. Here’s why you should join me in voting YES on Question 2.

Maybe you’ll be convinced quickly?

If you support choice and free markets, as I unabashedly do, you’ll quickly come to the YES side, I hope. If you need a little more convincing, please stay with me for an objective analysis as the misinformation campaign has been rather aggressive.


The $400 million lie

Opponents are using these numbers like this to scare up the opposition. Let’s understand that this is the money that “follows the students”.  When you’re told that this money is coming out of public education, without being told that it goes with the student to their new school, you’re being told a lie of omission.

Economic facts of charter schools:

When Andy moves from a public school to a charter school, funds equivalent to what would have been “spent on him” follow him to the charter school.

Ex: District spends $15,000 per student (total of state and local funds / number of students). This money follows the student to the charter school. (This is essentially the same as the current voc-tech / agricultural funding model. A model that no one argues against.)

Further, though it’s been somewhat underfunded of late when a student leaves the public school system for a charter, the “sending” public school system gets a kickback of up to 95% of the per-student funds. This money smooths funding variance for sending schools and helps to offset capital expenditures that didn’t consider the charter school effect. This is, in fact, new money for schools — incremental state spending on education. It’s complicated. More here.

The funding model isn’t perfect. The sending district may incur additional transportation (busing) expense. We can debate and refine the economics, but beginning with the premise that $400M is somehow being taken away is a grossly disingenuous way to start the conversation.


It’s not about you

The current charter school cap is 120 and we have only 78 statewide.  But under current law, Boston and Springfield have reached their caps.  Thousands of Boston families seeking better educational opportunities are denied them every year, due in large part to this cap.  A YES vote fixes this and extends choice and opportunity to these students.

You should also know that in milky white Massachusetts, 66% of charter school students are non-white.


Charters are working right now

We all want the best from our public education system, Boston Public Schools included. Unfortunately, things are, objectively, bad in this school department. This is what drives demand for charters. With a magic wand, we could cure all that ails it. This is unrealistic and it’s unfair to subject today’s students, who have immediate needs, to the long and slow grind of structural reforms.

The charters are doing a better job.  Great stuff here from Brookings:

https://www.brookings.edu/research/massachusetts-charter-cap-holds-back-disadvantaged-students/


A NO vote solves nothing

Voting NO doesn’t make public schools any better. It changes nothing. Nothing at all.

Consider these points on Tuesday.