The Death of Conrad Roy
For the most part I tend to stay away from cases that have not reached their conclusion. I do this for many reasons. First, I like to have all the facts and secondly, to be honest it prevents a lot of updating of cases. A good example of this is a case going on in my local area. I would love to blog about it here as it is a case I have followed since the beginning but the suspect is in jail awaiting trial and there seems to be a lot of misinformation out about the case and much doubt on the suspects guilt. The case involving the death of Conrad Roy is one of those cases that has not come to a complete end. However, there has been a conviction in the case despite the judge allowing the defendant to remain out on bail pending appeal. While that in and of itself is unusual it does not even touch just how unusual the case is. This will go down in history as a landmark case.
Conrad Roy was eighteen years old when he committed suicide in his truck in a K-Mart parking lot in Mattapoisett Massachusetts on July 13, 2014. I do not believe that anyone on the planet disputes that this was a suicide. Conrad had a history of depression. He had been in therapy and had spoke of attempting suicide once before. From his family's perspective they thought things were better and while it appears they were not deluded in their ideas that he was completely fine they did not believe that on his own he was suicidal.
This case is different not just because of what would later be discovered but also in the idea of how things were discussed, and determined. I will be honest that suicide cases often, I guess I would say, irritate me. It seems that there are so many cases out there in which someone dies and a coroner determines the case to be suicide and the family of the victim fight with law enforcement because they cannot accept that their loved one would do such a thing. That is not to say that I have not come across one or two in which the evidence seems a bit sketchy and it does seem possible that it was a murder and not suicide but family's tend to continue to fight long after the evidence is in, all still pointing to suicide, or at least not in the direction of a particular person they believe to be responsible. That was not the case here. This was clearly a suicide and Conrad's family knew it. What they did not know or understand initially was what had led to his suicide.
Conrad had met Michelle Carter a few years prior when the family was vacationing in Florida. Michelle lived just a few towns over from the Roy family. It appears that Conrad and Michelle struck up at the very least a friendship. They did not see each other often after they returned to Massachusetts but they kept in touch through phone calls and text messages. Michelle was a year younger than Conrad but she too apparently had suffered from depression and what some call mental health issues. Both she and Conrad had been prescribed psychiatric medications. Maybe this was the attraction between the two. No one seems to be real clear in their understanding of the relationship.
It did not take long after Conrad's death for some stories to come out. These stories led to an investigation that had officials looking at all of the electronic communication between Conrad and Michelle, particularly on the night of his suicide. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can search yourself and find the transcript of things so I am not going to put those quotes here as the conversations between the two took place over several hours. However, what was discovered was that Michelle knew that Conrad was considering suicide. Now, it has been rightly argued, that if someone is going to commit suicide there is little you can do to stop them. It is also rightly argued that early on in the discussion Michelle did talk to Conrad about getting help through doctors and seeking more therapy. But her encouragement for him to remain alive ended there. While the two had a short phone call around the time of Conrad's death and what exactly was said cannot be officially determined, most of their conversations were through text messages. Apparently most were left on Conrad's phone but Michelle had deleted most of them apparently to him and to others by the time investigators got to her but some were retrieved through the phone company.
Conrad had gone out with his sisters throughout the day and while they did notice he was on his phone texting a lot they thought little of it and thought things seemed fine. Later that night Conrad told his parents he was going out. Throughout the day and into the night Conrad and Michelle were texting back and forth, mainly talking about his desire to commit suicide. Those text messages, Michelle's behavior after Conrad's death and conversations she had with other people after her last conversation with him is what ultimately put Michelle in hot water. After earlier encouraging more therapy and mental health help Michelle went the opposite direction and when Conrad expressed doubts about going through with the suicide Michelle told him to get back into his truck and taunted him about all but chickening out. Ultimately obviously Conrad did go through with his suicide by carbon monoxide. Soon after Michelle talked to one of her friends, and yes, was seemingly upset but expressed almost immediately that she may be facing trouble since she had told him to get back into the truck. She had even out of the blue called Conrad's sister after she obviously knew, or assumed, he was dead asking if she had heard from him. According to Conrad's sister this was a very odd conversation due to the time of night, as well as the fact that apparently they had never really talked prior. But at no point in that conversation did Michelle indicate that she knew anything about a possible suicide.
It became difficult to know if Michelle could be charged with anything, and if so... what? It became the “texting suicide case.” People are not required to call 911 when someone is in danger and to be fair she was not physically present at the time so they would have difficultly in proving she knew for a fact Conrad was dead and charge her with failure to report a death. On one side of that a defense attorney could use the call to Conrad's sister to show she did not think or know for sure that he had gone through with his suicide but of course on the other side of that the prosecutor could use the fact that in that call Michelle did not tell Conrad''s sister anything that had gone on throughout the night. In the end prosecutors decided that they had enough to charge Michelle with involuntary manslaughter.
On February 4, 2015 Michelle Carter was indicted by a grand jury in juvenile court in Bedford Massachusetts. She was indicted as a “youthful offender” which also meant that she could be sentenced, if convicted, as an adult. She was released on bail. In May of 2015 more outrage surfaced after Michelle's mother posted pictures on social media of her in a prom dress and on a trip to Orlando. Many felt this was a slap to Conrad's family as well as the fact that she was seemingly moving on with life without a care in the world. Whether it was true or not, I think it may be fair to say it was less than tactful to have those things posted on social media.
Michelle's trial was in June of 2017. The day before the trial was to begin the defense decided to waive a jury and have a bench trial meaning only a judge would decide her fate. On June 16, 2017 the judge in the case convicted Michelle on the grounds of involuntary manslaughter. However, the judge allowed her to remain free on bail until her sentencing on August 3rd. At this point Michelle had spent no more than a few hours in jail. When August 3rd came the prosecutor was asking for ten years while the defense asked for probation. Neither side got what they were asking when the judge decided to sentence her to two and a half years but then suspended all but fifteen months. The way laws are established she would likely only serve about seven months in prison. After that she was to serve five years of probation. The Roy family was obviously disappointed in the sentencing but no one was prepared for what came next.
The defense asked the judge to stay the sentence until all appeals had been exhausted. This is a common request from a defense attorney, but they do so knowing the chances of it happening are slim. Well, this case fell into that category. The judge agreed and stayed the sentence meaning still, despite a conviction Michelle Carter still never went to jail. Considering the unprecedented facts of the case it is theorized that appeals could take many years and yet, she will have served no time. The judge did order her to have no contact with the Roy family.
This is a very sticky case for me being a former law student. I think most agree that Michelle Carter's actions and behavior was despicable. There seems to be no moral compass for her. However, were her actions criminal? And, the bigger question is if her conviction stands in court how much further can prosecutors take things in other cases? One recent case that comes to mind is the one where four or five young men watched a man drown and video taped it, not rendering him aid or calling 911 to get him help. Again the moral compass seems to be lacking but at where do we draw the line? Excuse my language but there are asshole's everywhere, and the actions here clearly qualify but when did being an asshole become criminal? Yes, Michelle Carter seemingly not only did nothing to render aid to Conrad or help him, and in fact encouraged him to follow through with his thoughts of suicide. But, reality is that in the end Conrad made that choice. What happens when a couple argues and one commits suicide in front of the other and while no one may be able to prove there was encouragement but someone decides it was the actions of the other person that drove them? We see this in cases of childhood bullying now. I just fear where this case may take us in the legal field because for every new type of case there is some prosecutor or investigator out there willing to push it a little bit further, and then more people behind them to push it further again, and again. At what point do we decide that it is everyone's LEGAL (not moral) duty to render aid to anyone and everyone?