The young woman found guilty of sending hundreds of texts telling her boyfriend to kill himself has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.
On June 16, a Massachusetts judge concluded that 20-year-old Michelle Carter was guilty of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Conrad Roy III to kill himself when they were both were 17.
On Thursday, Judge Lawrence Moniz sentenced Carter to two and a half years at the Bristol House of Correction, with only 15 months of that to be served behind bars and the balance suspended. Terms of her probation include never profiting from the experience with paid books or interviews, not leaving her home state without permission, and never contacting Roy’s family.
“I have not found that Ms. Carter’s age or level of maturity or even her mental illness have any significant impact on her actions,” Moniz said at Carter’s sentencing. He added that the court needed to strike a balance between punishing Carter for her actions and rehabilitating her. She had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.
After meeting in 2012 on family vacations in Florida, Carter and Roy exchanged text messages for almost two years. When Roy started telling Carter he was thinking of killing himself, Carter responded by saying his family “would get over it” and suggesting how he could do it.
On the day in 2014 that Roy killed himself by hooking up carbon monoxide gas to the cab of his truck, Carter stayed on the phone with him and, at one point, told him to “get back in” the truck.
“There is not one day I do not mourn the loss of my beloved son,” Roy’s mother said in a statement that prosecutor Maryclare Flynn read on Thursday.
Flynn had asked the judge for a sentence of seven to 12 years, while Carter’s defense lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, had asked for five years of supervised probation because of Carter’s history of mental health issues, lack of criminal past, and young age at the time of Roy’s suicide.
“Knowing that Mr. Roy is in the truck, knowing the condition of the truck, knowing or at least having a state of mind that 15 minutes would pass, Ms. Carter takes no action,” Moniz told the court in June before finding Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The unexpected manslaughter ruling caused waves in legal communities, with many legal experts arguing that it could set precedent for many future cases in which people tell others to kill themselves.
Daniel Medwed, a law and criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, told Business Insider before the sentencing on Thursday that it was unlikely Carter would be sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison due to her young age at the time of the crime and her history of mental illness.
He predicted a sentence of one to five years, saying that no matter what, it would be “a very difficult decision for the judge.”
“Some people think she should get 20 years because what she did was just so horrible,” Medwed said. “Other people think it’s unfair to make an example of her because she was a troubled teenager who doesn’t deserve to be sentenced to prison.”