A disturbing first of its kind case involving a teen who urged her boyfriend to commit suicide via text messages has come to an end – but not without driving attention to the fact that every individual is indeed responsible for his or her words.
Michelle Carter, 20, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter last month. This week, she was sentenced 2.5 years in prison, plus 5-years of probation.
In announcing her sentence, the Judge called Carter “reckless” for telling Conrad Roy III to get back in the truck she knew was a toxic environment.
Three years ago, 18-year-old Roy locked himself in his truck and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carter knew what he was doing and urged him to continue with his suicide.
When Roy got out of the truck, Carter told him to get back in.
In one message, she wrote, “You just need to do it, Conrad.”
Prior to his death, Roy had been texting with Carter about his thoughts of killing himself. Roy’s family knew he struggled with depression, but didn’t know about the texting between Roy and Carter. The couple only met two or three times in person.
Two months after his death, Carter sent text messages to a classmate – admitting that his suicide was her fault, and that she “could’ve stopped him.”
According to First Amendment experts, this case is the first in which someone has been convicted of manslaughter for using his or her words.
Text Messages Count As Evidence
According to First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters, speech cannot be criminalized expect when the speech itself is a crime, such as hate speech or solicitation.
However, with the rise of technology and social media, we’ve seen cases involving the freedom of speech become more complicated. This case has raised many questions regarding the role speech has in criminal convictions.
And as you’ve probably already concluded, one can be convicted of a crime for the words he or she chooses to use.
The case of Elonis v. United States is another one of those examples in which the remarks a man made on Facebook landed him nearly four years in prison.
You Are Responsible For Your Words
Increasingly, court cases are using social media to gather evidence, including text messages and email conversations. As criminal lawyer Brooke Winter said, “There is no such thing as a private conversation on social media.”
Before you make a remark that you regret, check your moral compass – first and foremost. And if you do meet a situation that stirs up emotions that might prompt you do act foolishly or regrettably, retain your composure. We have tips for doing just that in our post, Sent An Angry Email? Our Tips To Fix The Situation
Keep in mind that with your freedom of speech comes the responsibility of being a moral human being.