Michelle Carter has been released early from prison.
The case that sparked legal precedent and resulted in polarizing, nationwide discussions has once again made headlines, as Michelle Carter – the 23-year-old Plainville, MA woman who was sentenced to manslaughter after encouraging her then-boyfriend through text messages to go through with a suicide attempt – was released early on Thursday, Jan. 23 from her cell in the Bristol County House of Corrections.
Carter was originally sentenced to two and a half years in prison in August of 2017, with 15 months to serve and five years of probation. Her release on Thursday comes marks around 11 months of time served.
Reports indicate that Carter was released early from prison due to a significant accrual of good behavior – including working in the prison’s community garden and serving food in the kitchen. Inmates in Massachusetts are permitted to earn 10 days off their sentences each month if they perform various functions – like volunteering for jobs and services in the jail – and avoiding further trouble while incarcerated.
A case unlike any before it
The case generated nationwide appeal because of its unprecedented nature. Carter did not physically coerce Conrad Roy to get back into his truck and go forward with his suicide attempt, however the sheer amount of evidence presented by the prosecution through text messages made it difficult to argue that she wasn’t, in some way, legally culpable for his going through with it.
For example, the prosecution showed how Carter – who entered into a long-distance relationship in February of 2012 – sent text messages to Roy over the course of two weeks in 2014 that encouraged him to commit suicide or belittled him for being hesitant about committing suicide more than 40 times. Roy had also suffered from mental health issues and had attempted suicide in the past, facts that Carter was aware of.
Carter even was shown to have had two conversations allotting to over 80 minutes with Roy on July 12, 2014 – the day that he ultimately went through with his suicide – and even admitted to sharing blame for his death.
“Sam 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,” Carter was shown to have said in a text to a friend. “Sam 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,” another text continued.
Trial Judge Lawrence Moniz ultimately convicted Carter of involuntary manslaughter, concluding that she had not only coerced Roy to re-enter the truck where he ultimately succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, but had also refused to call for help despite knowing the scenario he was in.
Words have consequences too
More than anything else, the Michelle Carter case set a strong precedent that the First Amendment does not protect individuals from culpability when their words lead or encourage an individual to harm themselves – even if that person was physically many miles away from where the harmful act occurs.
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