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Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter in boyfriend's suicide

by: Dalton Main Updated:

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TAUNTON, Mass. -  A woman accused of convincing her boyfriend to commit suicide has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Massachusetts judge. 

Michelle Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of 18-year-old Conrad Roy.

Carter broke into tears as Judge Lawrence Moniz began to read his decision.

"[Her] actions constituted wanton and reckless conduct," Judge Moniz said. 

Moniz said the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she acted recklessly and ultimately was responsible for his death when she told him to get back into the truck. 

"His research was extensive...he secured the generator...located his vehicle," Moniz noted. "However, he breaks that chain of self-causing by getting out of the vehicle."

Moniz explained a precedent he considered in a 200-year-old case, in which a man hanged himself in a prison cell hours before he was to be publicly executed for the murder of his father. 

"He literally sought fresh air," Moniz said, referring to Roy's previously unsuccessful attempts to commit suicide.

Moniz noted Carter told Roy to get back into the truck after he got out, which she must have known was becoming a deadly environment. 

"She instructs Mr. Roy to get back into the truck, well-knowing of all the feelings he has expressed to her," Moniz said. 

Telling him to get back into the truck constituted "wanton and reckless conduct," the court found. 

Moniz then indicated Carter seems to have known the gravity of the situation as she indicated to her friends in messages and conversations. 

MORE: All the texts between Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy the day he died

"Ms. Carter had reason to know that Mr. Roy had followed her instructions and had placed himself in the toxic environment of the truck," said Moniz. 

He cited a previous case as precedent, in which "there is a duty to take reasonable steps to alleviate the risk." The decision not to do so is what Moniz cited in finding Carter guilty of manslaughter. 

He continued, noting that Carter failed to tell anyone of his plans nor to "issue a simple instruction to get out of the truck."

Moniz cited a 2001 case, Commonwealth v Levesque, in which a couple was found responsible for the deaths of six firefighters because they failed to report a fire. When firefighters were told there may be people inside a cold storage warehouse in Worcester, they went inside and were killed in the blaze. 

The ACLU's Massachusetts chapter said in a statement the conviction "exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions."

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said Carter knew what she was doing when she encouraged Roy to kill himself and tried to use him for attention. 

Prosecutors say the then-17-year-old Carter pressured Roy to take his own life through a torrent of text messages.

They say she told Roy to "get back in" his truck when he became frightened while trying to kill himself with carbon monoxide.

"Although we are very pleased with the verdict, there are no winners here today," Rayburn said after the verdict. "We fervently hope today's guilty verdict will be some measure of justice to the friends and family of Conrad Roy and provide them with some opportunity for closure."

Carter's attorney, Joseph Cataldo argued Roy was simply forcing Carter to be part of his second attempt. 

Carter's lawyer has argued that Roy had attempted suicide previously and made his own decision to take his own life.

Judge Lawrence Moniz said he will take the statements and evidence under advisement in order to make a ruling. Once his ruling is made, Moniz said he will announce it in open court the following morning. 

MORE: Death by text? What’s at stake in the Michelle Carter trial