TAUNTON, Mass. (CN) — Prompting rebuke by the American Civil Liberties Union, a Massachusetts judge handed an involuntary-manslaughter conviction Friday to the girlfriend of a teen who killed himself after she urged him to do so via text message.
“This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions,” Matthew Segal, legal director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported that Michelle Carter cried in juvenile court this morning as the judge found her guilty of causing the death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III.
Carter was 17 in July 2014 when she sent Roy a barrage of messages that urged him to kill himself. Roy was later found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his truck in Fairhaven.
As reported by the Associated Press, Carter’s lawyer failed to sway the court with arguments about Roy’s history of depression and past suicide attempts.
Prosecutors argued meanwhile that, when Roy got out of his truck, Carter told him to “get back in.”
Though the ACLU’s Segal called Roy’s death tragic, he said “it is not a reason to stretch the boundaries of our criminal laws or abandon the protections of our Constitution.”
“There is no law in Massachusetts making it a crime to encourage someone, or even to persuade someone, to commit suicide,” Segal added. “Yet Ms. Carter has now been convicted of manslaughter, based on the prosecution’s theory that, as a 17-year-old girl, she literally killed Mr. Roy with her words.”
Segal also warned of the conviction’s potential for far-reaching consequences.
“If allowed to stand, Ms. Carter’s conviction could chill important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved ones across the commonwealth,” Segal said.
Carter’s sentence could range from probation to 20 years in prison.