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Were Inyoung You's Actions A Crime Or Free Speech In Texting Suicide Case?

BOSTON (CBS) -- Former Boston College student Inyoung You pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in her boyfriend's suicide. WBZ-TV's Chief Investigative Reporter and lawyer Cheryl Fiandaca answered questions about the complicated case.

Q: What do prosecutors need to prove to show that she is responsible for Alexander Urtula's death?

Cheryl: The conflict in this case is whether Inyoung You's actions were a crime or free speech. That is the core question-- are these text messages just words, or is it conduct that results in a death?

Massachusetts has legislation pending called Conrad's Law for Conrad Roy, who took his own life in the Michelle Carter case. That legislation would make coerced suicide a crime.

Q: What does the case come down to legally? 

Cheryl: These are complicated issues, and in this particular case, the prosecution is saying that she not only encouraged him, but she did more than that to get him to take his own life. There were allegations that there was some kind of physical abuse, that there were thousands of thousands of messages and that she was physically present in the garage. It is unclear whether they were together when he jumped. Where she was physically, is going to be a big issue.

The Michelle Carter case is similar but not the same. She was not physically there.

I think at the end of the day we are also looking at some obvious mental health issues. And another issue is that this is often how young people communicate now.

Q: Will the law continue to evolve if we start seeing more and more of these cases?

Cheryl: We are likely going to see more and more of these cases. The law will have to catch up and come up with what the proper charge would be in this case.

The defense is saying that if it's anything, it is assisted suicide, but she wasn't there. She didn't make him do it. Whether she encouraged him or didn't encourage him or just sent messages saying "don't do it" is all going to be part of the case.

The prosecution is saying this is involuntary manslaughter, that she was acting so recklessly that this person took his own life. And so intent becomes important.

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