Last September I wrote about the strange and tragic case of 18 year old Conrad Roy III and Michelle Carter, who became known in the press as the “now or never girl.” It was a twisted tale of a depressed and suicidal young man who repeatedly declared his intention to end his own life – making detailed plans of how to do so – and his girlfriend who not only failed to stop him, but encouraged him to go through with it while he was in the process of asphyxiating himself in his car. While she wasn’t even on the property at the time and did nothing to physically assist him, Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender, allowing for her punishment as an adult.

That case has been in process for a while, but now there is a motion to force her back into the juvenile court system. If that happens, the clock is ticking, and if prosecutors fail to bring her to trial by her 20th birthday in less than two months she could be flushed out of the system and never face punishment. (AT&T News)

Michelle Carter, 19, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of Conrad Roy III, 18, of Mattapoisett.

Because she was charged as a youthful offender, she could face up to 20 years in prison, the same sentence an adult would if convicted. But Carter’s lawyer has asked the state’s highest court to either dismiss the manslaughter charge or require prosecutors to try her as a juvenile.

If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees to send the case to juvenile court, prosecutors will have only until Aug. 11 to put her on trial. That’s the day Carter turns 20, when she will age out of the juvenile system.

The legal technicalities are complicating this case needlessly. The state needs to determine whether or not a crime took place and, if so, move to prosecute the suspect. Sadly, that’s a pretty black and white, emotionless analysis. For me, it blows past the initial question of whether a crime took place on the day that Conrad Roy died.

Every time I hear about this case I can’t help but be plagued with doubt over whether or not Carter should even be on trial in the first place. I know the boy’s family is still in great pain and want to see justice done for their son, but it’s unclear to me if the girl ever even exhibited any sort of malice or desire to do harm. (And that’s aside from the fact that she wasn’t even there when he died.) Yes, her communications with him obviously seem heartless and it’s easy to paint her as the villain here, but did she really participate in Conrad’s death? For that matter, did she even want him to die at all? I keep coming back to that text she sent to a friend after her boyfriend was already dead.

“…his death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I (expletive) told him to get back in … because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldn’t have him live the way he was living anymore I couldn’t do it I wouldn’t let him,” Carter wrote.

Those unprompted words to a mutual friend seem to hold both positives and negatives in terms of the question at hand. She was on the phone with him for 45 minutes while he was in the truck waiting to die. She could have hung up and called emergency services at any point and they likely would have gotten there in time to save or at least revive the boy. Further, he had a moment of uncertainty when he got out of the car and she told him to get back in. Was she under a legal obligation to summon help, knowing that he was about to die? And if so, should that constitute manslaughter? I’m also unsure if her urging him to get back in the car over the phone is a crime when Roy had the choice to simply shut off the vehicle and leave the garage. It was, after all, his choice.

But the other half of that text speaks to motive. She did what she did, in her own words, because she knew “he would do it all over again” tomorrow. She couldn’t bear to see him going on like that. Was her motivation truly malice or some misguided attempt at easing his pain and ending a cycle of suffering?

Either way, allowing this case to simply expire because of a technicality and allowing her to walk free will, as I see it, satisfy no one. The state should either determine that there is insufficient cause to prosecute her and dismiss the case or send her on to trial promptly and allow a judge and jury to make that determination. That will at least bring some closure no matter which way it ends.

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