Death of Conrad Roy
Conrad Henri Roy III (September 12, 1995 – July 13, 2014) was an American marine salvage captain. His suicide at the age of 18 with encouragement from his long-distance girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, was the subject of a noted investigation and involuntary manslaughter trial in Massachusetts, popularly known as the "texting suicide case". The case, Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, involved many text messages, emails, and phone calls between Carter and Roy at the time of Roy's death. Roy had seen numerous mental health professionals and insisted he wanted to die. They had both been prescribed psychiatric medication. The case raised complex questions about criminal responsibility. Carter was convicted by a judge of involuntary manslaughter, who stated this was due specifically to a final text in which Carter told Roy to get back in his truck, which was filling with carbon monoxide, when he became scared.
Roy's early life and career
Roy was born in 1995 in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. He was sometimes socially anxious attending school and going into the classroom. For many years he worked with his father, grandfather, and uncle in his family's marine salvage business, Tucker-Roy Marine Towing and Salvage, Inc. in the New England area. In the Spring of 2014 he earned his captain's license from the Northeast Maritime Institute by completing three months of night classes. In June 2014 he graduated on the Honor Roll (highest grades) from Old Rochester Regional High School (ORR) in Mattapoisett. He was an all-around high school athlete who played baseball, rowed crew, and ran track. He graduated with a 3.88 GPA and had been accepted to Fitchburg State University to study business, but at that point had decided not to go.
Roy struggled with social anxiety and depression for which he had seen several therapists and counselors, including a cognitive behavioral therapist in the weeks prior to his death. He had been hospitalized for an acetaminophen (paracetamol) overdose at the age of 17; he was talking to a girl he had met in a group and she called the police.
On Sunday, July 13, 2014, following digital exchanges with Carter while interacting with his family, Roy committed suicide by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide fumes in his truck in the now-closed Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Carter attended a different high school, King Philip Regional High School, in Wrentham, Massachusetts. They had met on family vacation in Florida several years prior and had maintained on-off communication, meeting only a few times.
Roy's Memorial Mass was celebrated on Saturday, July 19, 2014, at St. Anthony's Church in Mattapoisett. The Captain Conrad H. Roy III Scholarship Fund at the Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, was established in his memory.
|Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter|
|Court||Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court|
|Decided||June 16, 2017|
|Judge sitting||Lawrence Moniz|
(Bristol County Juvenile Court)
Michelle Carter was indicted on February 4, 2015, and arraigned the following day at in New Bedford Juvenile Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter in Taunton, Massachusetts. The grand jury found enough to charge her with "wantonly and recklessly" assisting the suicide. She was 17 at the time and the court indicted her as a 'youthful offender' rather than a 'juvenile', meaning she could be sentenced as an adult.
In May 2015, Roy's family were upset by pictures posted on social media by Gail Carter, despite a court order, showing her daughter Michelle in a prom dress and on a trip to Orlando taking part in a DECA schools competition which included visiting Walt Disney World.
In June 2015 a district court judge denied a defense motion to remove the Bristol County District Attorney's office from the prosecution because DA Thomas M. Quinn III is first cousin to Roy's grandmother Janice Roy and therefore Conrad's first cousin twice removed. Quinn had already handed the case over to his Deputy DA William McCauley. On July 1, 2016 an appeal heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was also denied, on the basis that there was probable cause, allowing the case to go forward.
The day before trial was due to start on June 6, 2017, Carter waived her right to jury trial and therefore the case was heard by Hon. Lawrence Moniz in the Bristol County Juvenile Court of Massachusetts, in Taunton. Carter was represented by Joseph P. Cataldo and Cory Madera. It is believed to be the first involuntary manslaughter trial in Massachusetts related to texting to encourage suicide  though there have been a few related cases.
On June 16, 2017, Judge Lawrence Moniz of the Bristol County Juvenile Court of Massachusetts, in Taunton found Carter legally guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He stated prior to his ruling that it was Carter's phone calls with Roy when he was in his truck gassing himself (as described by Carter's texts to friends), rather than the preceding text messages, that caused him to go through with killing himself.
According to CNN, this decision "could set legal precedent for whether it's a crime to tell someone to commit suicide." Carter remained free on bail until her sentencing on August 3 when she was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for manslaughter, though she faced up to 20 years.
In April 2016 Roy's mother Lynn reportedly said she was not sure what she wanted to happen to Carter, referring to an interaction between two unwell people and that Carter could have saved him. After the guilty verdict Roy's father stated publicly that the family were pleased with the verdict but that they wanted privacy and time to process the events they have experienced; Lynn Roy appeared on the CBS 48 Hours show, saying she didn't believe Carter had a conscience and that she knew exactly what she was doing.
On August 3, 2017, Judge Lawrence Moniz sentenced Carter to serve a two-and-a-half-year term, with 15 months to be served in the Bristol County House of Corrections, the rest of the balance suspended, and five years of probation to be served. Soon after the sentencing was handed down, Carter's lawyers asked Judge Moniz to issue a stay of the sentence until all of Carter's Massachusetts court appeals options are exhausted. Judge Moniz granted the stay with conditions that Carter stay away from the Roy family.
On February 6, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Carter acted with criminal intent when she encouraged Roy into suicide, so her involuntary manslaughter conviction was ordered to stand and Carter's 15 month prison sentence will be enforced in the near future. The rest of the 2½-year sentence was suspended, followed by five years of probation.
On February 11, 2019, Carter was ordered by a Massachusetts judge to begin serving her sentence.
|Criminal penalty||2½ years, reduced to 15 months plus 5 years' probation|
Michelle Carter and then 16-year-old Conrad Roy met one another in Florida in 2012 while each had been visiting relatives. After this initial encounter, they saw each other in person again only once or twice over the course of three years, despite having lived only about 35 miles (56 km) away from each other in the Boston suburbs. Instead, they mostly exchanged text messages and emails.
Roy also made some videos of himself talking to camera, which formed an important part of the case.
Carter was born on August 11, 1996, in Massachusetts to Gail and David Carter. She went to King Philip Regional High School, Wrentham. She had developed an eating disorder from the age 8 or 9, may have injured herself by cutting, was on prescription psychiatric medication from the age of 14, and attended counseling at McLean Hospital in Belmont.
According to court documents, Roy had allegedly been physically hit by his father and verbally abused by his grandfather, and tried to kill himself in October 2012 while despondent after his parents divorced. After learning that he was planning to kill himself, Carter repeatedly discouraged him from committing suicide in 2012 and 2014 and encouraged him to "get professional help". However, her attitude changed in July 2014, when she started thinking that it would be a "good thing to help him die". In June, Roy had texted Carter suggesting they act like Romeo and Juliet, checking that she understood they had each killed themselves.
Prosecutors claimed that Carter had sought public attention from her boyfriend's death, and their putative relationship was almost entirely online rather than in-person. The suggestibility and vulnerability of Roy, a minor at the time, has been an issue.
Carter's defense lawyers argued that Roy had a history of suicide attempts and the decision to end his life was his own, that Carter was "bewildered" over the case against her, and that, "Taking all the texts in context, she tried to talk him out of it... ." They argued in initial hearings that the defendant had broken no law and had a first amendment right to free speech, and that at that time she was a juvenile.
Roy had also been taking Celexa for some time. In the United States, citalopram carries a boxed warning stating it may increase suicidal thinking and behavior in those under age 24. In 2016 the judge had refused the defense's request for funds to hire an expert on Celexa, describing it as 'speculative'.
The case is expected by some to set a legal precedent. "The ruling... may spur lawmakers to codify the behavior highlighted in the case as criminal." The judge had noted that Carter had willed Roy's death, that she did not order him out of the truck and that her actions "put him in that toxic environment" which "constituted reckless conduct" and "that the conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy." In effect, her actions led to his death and that her complicity did not falter.
While, per U.S. law, the lower-court decision cannot bind other courts, legal professionals believe it could have a social effect by raising other courts' attention to new, digital methods of committing crimes. The case also attempts to redefine the social spectrum and which attitudes and behaviors would qualify as criminal that were not considered criminal before.
The case was aired on the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) television series Dateline episode "Reckless", first aired: February 8, 2019. In addition to covering the court proceedings of Carter's conviction, the NBC correspondent Andrea Canning holds exclusive interviews with both the prosecution and defense attorneys, along with interviews of Conrad Roy's family members.
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- Obituary page for Captain Conrad H. Roy III, July 13, 2014
- 'Remembering Conrad Roy' Facebook page
- Commonwealth's (New Bedford Juvenile Court) Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, August 2015
- Michelle Carter Appellant Brief, March 2016
- Supreme Court affirms decision, July 2016
- Decision of Trial Judge, June 2017
- 20/20 Documentary on ABC
- 48 Hours Documentary on CBS
- What Happened to Conrad Roy? on The Doctor Oz Show
- Can words kill? Guilty verdict in texting suicide trial raises questions