The young woman who sent hundreds of texts urging her boyfriend to kill himself has been sentenced to 15 months in jail.
On June 16, a Massachusetts judge concluded that 20-year-old Michelle Carter was guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Conrad Roy III in 2014, when he was 18 and Carter was 17.
On Thursday, Judge Lawrence Moniz sentenced Carter to two and a half years at the Bristol County House of Correction, with 15 months behind bars and the balance suspended. Terms of her probation include never profiting from the case with books or interviews, not leaving her home state without permission, and never contacting Roy’s family.
“I have not found that Ms. Carter’s age or level of maturity or even her mental illness have any significant impact on her actions,” Moniz said at Carter’s sentencing. He added that the court needed to strike a balance between punishing Carter for her actions and rehabilitating her. She had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.
After meeting in 2012 on family vacations in Florida, Carter and Roy exchanged text messages for almost two years. When Roy started telling Carter he was thinking of suicide, Carter responded by telling him his family would “get over it” and suggesting how he could do it.
On the day in 2014 that Roy killed himself by hooking up carbon monoxide gas to the cab of his truck, Carter stayed on the phone with him and, at one point, told him to “get back in” the truck.
“There is not one day I do not mourn the loss of my beloved son,” Roy’s mother said in a statement that prosecutor Maryclare Flynn read on Thursday.
Flynn had asked the judge for a sentence of seven to 12 years, while Carter’s defense lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, had asked for five years of supervised probation due to Carter’s history of mental health issues, lack of criminal past, and age at the time of Roy’s suicide.
“Knowing that Mr. Roy is in the truck, knowing the condition of the truck, knowing or at least having a state of mind that 15 minutes would pass, Ms. Carter takes no action,” Moniz told the court in June before convicting Carter.
The unexpected involuntary-manslaughter ruling caused waves in legal communities, with many experts saying it could set a precedent for future cases in which people tell others to kill themselves.
Daniel Medwed, a professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University, told Business Insider before the sentencing on Thursday that Carter was unlikely to be sentenced to 20 years in prison because of her age at the time of the crime and her history of mental illness.
He predicted a sentence of one to five years, saying that no matter what it would be “a very difficult decision for the judge.”
“Some people think she should get 20 years because what she did was just so horrible,” Medwed said. “Other people think it’s unfair to make an example of her because she was a troubled teenager who doesn’t deserve to be sentenced to prison.”