Lawyers Say Woman Urging Boyfriend To Kill Himself Was Free Speech
The Michelle Williams case created a media-frenzy and polarized a nation. Could a teenager be convicted of killing her boyfriend based on text messages sent to him? The answer for Michelle Williams, who was seemingly one time in love with victim Conrad Roy III, turned out to be a resounding “yes” after she was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
Roy’s suicide note held the following passage: “this life has been challenging and troublesome for me but I’ll forever be in your heart and we will meet up someday in heaven . . . I [heart] you.”
The judge felt strongly that William’s text messages were the culprit, the fuel, that pushed Roy to make his final decision to take his life.
However, her attorney has now filed an appeal based on Carter’s right to free speech. As much as many people will be upset over such an appeal, her attorney is absolutely correct.
“Because the judge convicted Carter for what she said, or failed to say, not what she did, this case implicates free speech under the 1st Amendment,” Carter’s attorney says in the text of the brief.
Joseph Cataldo, Carter’s legal representative, said that his client did not incite any “imminent lawlessness” with her text messages to her ex-boyfriend.
“Massachusetts common law has never said that words alone without physical presence has been sufficient to constitute a homicide – not until this case,” he said. “Any new definition of common law can only be applied moving forward, you cannot apply it to past events.”
“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then, all that for nothing,” Carter texted to Roy just moments before he committed suicide. “I’m just so confused like you were so ready and determined.”
The text messages are in poor taste, there isn’t much argument there. They are potentially sent from a teen frustrated with a boyfriend that she once attempted to help. She’s a teen. Her boyfriend was likely to commit such an act whether or not Carter intervened. Teenagers get into disputes on text and social media frequently, we can’t start charging them all for what they write, or don’t write, to inevitable victims of suicide.
This is far from yelling “fire” in a movie theater. Carter’s words could be interpreted as a teenager frustrated with a boyfriend that could be using threats of suicide to taunt her, invoke a response from her, manipulate her, or a number of other factors. This is a dangerous slippery slope that all parents should snuff out before its too late.
Roy’s death likely held a number of factors that potentially could have prevented it. What Carter said, or didn’t say, is merely one variable in a pot of many.
This is a failure of our justice system that’s hopefully rectified sooner rather than later.
Roy committed suicide in 2014 in the parking lot of a KMart. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.