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Michelle Carter ordered to begin serving jail sentence in texting suicide case

Woman ordered to jail in texting suicide case

Taunton, Mass. — A young woman who urged her boyfriend through text messages to kill himself has been ordered to jail to begin serving her jail sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Michelle Carter showed no emotion as she was taken into custody at the end of a brief hearing before the Taunton Trial Court Monday afternoon.

Michelle was sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2017 for her role in the 2014 death of Conrad Roy III, but the judge allowed her to remain free while she appealed in state court. Massachusetts' highest court upheld her conviction last week. The judge who convicted Carter and the appeals court found she caused Roy's death when she instructed him to get back in his truck filling with toxic gas. Carter's lawyers say she isn't responsible for Roy's suicide. "48 Hours" covered the case in the episode, "Death by Text."

A lawyer for Carter had urged the judge to allow the 22-year-old to stay out of jail while they take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her attorneys said in court documents that she has no prior criminal record, hasn't tried to flee, and has been receiving mental health treatment. 

Death by Text

Daniel Marx, who argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court, said last week that the high court's ruling "stretches the law to assign blame for a tragedy that was not a crime." 

"It has very troubling implications, for free speech, due process, and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, that should concern us all," he said.

Joe Cataldo, another attorney for Carter, said in court Monday the legal issues raised by the case are "still ripe" and that Carter should remain free while they are hashed out at the federal level.

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Michelle Carter was ordered Feb. 11, 2019 by a Taunton trial judge to start serving her 15-month involuntary manslaughter sentence for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself through text messages CBS Boston

"Many of those legal issues raise federal questions, and those questions are ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court," Cataldo said.

But a judge ruled Monday that she should start her sentence. Earlier in the day, Massachusetts' highest court denied an emergency motion filed by her lawyers to keep her out of jail. 

Outside court, Roy's family said they were happy to see justice served after a more than four-year ordeal, reports CBS Boston.

"We hope that no one else ever has to feel this pain," Roy's aunt Becky Maki said. "His life mattered." 

Cataldo vowed to continue to appeal. 

Carter was 17 when Roy, 18, took his own life in Fairhaven, a town on Massachusetts' south coast in July 2014. Her case garnered international attention and provided a disturbing look at teenage depression and suicide. 

Carter and Roy both struggled with depression, and Roy had previously tried to kill himself. Their relationship consisted mostly of texting and other electronic communications. 

In dozens of text messages revealed during her sensational trial, Carter pushed Roy to end his life and chastised him when he hesitated. As Roy made excuses to put off his plans, her texts became more insistent. 

"You keep pushing it off and say you'll do it but u never do. It's always gonna be that way if u don't take action," Carter texted him he on the day he died. 

But the juvenile court judge focused his guilty verdict on the fact that Carter told Roy over the phone to get back in his truck when it was filling with carbon monoxide. The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy's family, but instead listened on the phone as he died. 

"After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die," Supreme Judicial Court Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the court's opinion affirming her conviction. 

Michelle Carter's texts with Conrad Roy

At trial, Carter's lawyer argued Carter had initially tried to talk Roy out of suicide and encouraged him to get help. Her attorney said Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that. 

Her appellate attorneys said there was no evidence that Roy would have lived if Carter had called for help. They also argued there wasn't enough evidence to prove that Carter told Roy to get back in his truck. 

Her phone call with Roy wasn't recorded, but prosecutors pointed to a rambling text that Carter sent to a friend two months later in which she said called Roy's death her fault and said she told Roy to "get back in" the truck.

In a June 2017 interview with "48 Hours," Roy's mother, Lynn Roy, said she doesn't believe Carter "has a conscience."

"I think she needs to be held responsible for her actions 'cause she knew exactly what she was doing and what she said," Roy told "48 hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty.