Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds conviction in texting suicide case

/ CBS/AP

"48 Hours" full episode: Death by Text

Boston — Massachusetts' highest court has upheld the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself through dozens of text messages. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday that the evidence proved Michelle Carter's conduct caused the suicide of Conrad Roy III in 2014.

A lower court judge said Carter caused Roy's death when she told him to get back in a truck filled with toxic gas. Prosecutors said Carter could have stopped Roy but instead pushed him to go through with his plan.

Her lawyers argued Carter didn't force Roy to take his own life and that there wasn't sufficient evidence she told him to get back into the truck.

It its ruling issued Wednesday, the high court found that "the evidence against the defendant proved that, by her wanton or reckless conduct, she caused the victim's death by suicide."

A closer look at the texting suicide case

Carter's lawyers said they will consider whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carter had been sentenced to 15 months in jail, and has remained free while she pursues her appeals. Her case drew international attention due to the thorny legal questions and the insistent tone of her text messages to Roy.

The day Roy filled his truck with carbon monoxide in a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, store parking lot, then-17-year-old Carter texted him: "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."

In arguments before the high court in October, Carter's attorney Daniel Marx said Carter was a misguided teen who was struggling with her own issues and had been trying to help Roy. He said Roy was committed to ending his life and was responsible for his own death.

"We can all see from the text messages that Michelle Carter did not force Conrad Roy to kill himself," Marx told the Supreme Judicial Court. "It was a tragic decision that he made."

Assistant District Attorney Shoshana Stern told the court that Carter knew she had "significant leverage" over Roy and became more insistent as he became more depressed.

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.

First published on February 6, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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