The trial of the girlfriend of a young man who committed suicide in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in July of 2014 is now sitting with the judge. Michelle Carter has somehow been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Conrad Roy III, who rigged up his pickup truck to flood the passenger compartment with exhaust fumes in a store parking lot. Carter has waived her right to a trial by jury, so the judge will decided her fate. (CNN)
A judge will hear closing arguments Tuesday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michelle Carter following a psychiatrist’s testimony that she was delusional and “involuntarily intoxicated” by antidepressants when she urged her boyfriend to kill himself.
Carter’s fate then will be in the hands of Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz, who will decide her guilt or innocence in a case that could set a legal precedent on whether it is a crime to tell someone to commit suicide.
The judge said that after hearing closing arguments he will begin weighing the evidence but gave no indication of when he might render a verdict.
Making this situation even more complicated is the maneuvering by the defense. They’ve been attempting to portray Carter as someone who was depressed and had recently changed medications, leaving her impaired and damaged. The problem I have with this entire case is that if this defense succeeds it still sets a horrible precedent because it implies that she might still have been guilty of involuntary manslaughter had she been properly medicated or not suffering from any mental impairment to begin with.
I’ve read the text messages that Carter sent to Roy urging him to go through with it and end his life. They were horrible. Perhaps she is deranged. Perhaps she’s just a terrible person. I don’t know. But what we do know with certainty was that she was miles away from Roy when he got in that truck and eventually died.
I don’t have any idea what sort of demons were plaguing Conrad Roy which led him down such a dark path, but in the end he was the only one who could get in the truck, start the engine, close the door that final time and wait to die. Because his girlfriend was telling him to do it does not excuse him from responsibility for his own decision and actions. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to kill himself either. This is clearly a decision he made.
I understand how that might sound a tad heartless, but it all goes back to the bits of wisdom most of our mothers attempted to impart to us as children. If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you jump too? Well, if your friends were telling you to jump, would you? If so, that’s on you. If they push you or throw you off the bridge it’s a different matter. That’s murder. But if you jump it’s suicide and it’s a choice you made, regardless of how damaged your mind might be.
Michelle Carter is not a doctor, a nurse, a therapist or anyone else who might have been in a position of professional responsibility for Roy’s welfare. She was his girlfriend. The fact that charges were brought against her in a court of law for anything in this case sends a worrisome signal that our courts have become infected with the sort of dogma which holds that people aren’t responsible for their own actions.