BOSTON (AP) — The unprecedented manslaughter conviction of a young woman who as a teenager sent text messages encouraging her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself seems destined to be appealed after it sparked intense debate over free speech, virtual presence and modern forms of communication.
A judge found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter for telling her boyfriend to “get back in” his carbon monoxide-filled truck after he had second thoughts about killing himself and got out. Those words during a phone call followed a barrage of text messages Carter sent to Conrad Roy III urging him to act on his suicidal thoughts.
Here’s what’s legal experts expect to happen next in the case:
Carter is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 3 by Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz. Carter was 17 when Roy, who was 18, took his own life in 2014. She’s now 20 and was charged as a youthful offender, meaning she can be sentenced to the same maximum penalty as an adult. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, meaning the judge could sentence her anywhere from probation to 20 years.
Legal experts say the judge may take into account Carter’s mental health issues in crafting a sentence toward the lower end of the range. Although the judge made a point of saying he did not credit a defense psychiatrist’s contention that Carter, who was treated for depression and anorexia, was “involuntarily intoxicated” by an anti-depressant she was taking, he could give her mental health history more weight in deciding her sentence, said Rosanna Cavallaro, a law professor at Suffolk University.
“The judge didn’t consider that enough to say, ‘You’re not guilty,’ but he might consider that important in determining how much time she ought to spend in jail,” Cavallaro said.
Boston defense attorney Steve Weymouth said the defense could file a motion for a full psychiatric evaluation of Carter as a device to give the judge some guidance as to what kind of sentence he…