A woman who sent her suicidal boyfriend a barrage of text messages encouraging him to kill himself has been jailed over his death.
Michelle Carter, 22, from Massachusetts, began a 15-month prison sentence on Monday for the involuntary manslaughter of Conrad Roy III, who killed himself in the town of Fairhaven in July 2014.
He was 18, and his girlfriend, Carter, 17, when he died in a truck filled with toxic gas.
On the day he died, 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.”
She had also texted him: “I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready – just do it babe.
“You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.”
She was jailed two years after her original conviction, and had been allowed to remain free while she appealed the decision in state court.
But the highest court in Massachusetts upheld the conviction, saying her actions caused Roy’s death.
Her lawyer argued that she should stay out of prison while her defence team takes her case to the US Supreme Court, but a judge ruled on Monday that she should start her sentence.
Roy’s aunt expressed relief at the decision, saying his family believes justice had been served.
“We hope that no one else ever has to feel this pain,” Becky Maki said. “His life mattered.”
A lawyer for Carter vowed to continue to appeal. “Make no mistake, this legal fight is not over,” Joe Cataldo said.
Both Carter and Roy struggled with depression during their relationship, and he had previously tried to kill himself.
In dozens of text messages revealed during her trial, Carter pushed Roy to end his life and chastised him when he hesitated. When Roy put off his plans, her texts became more insistent.
A juvenile court judge focused his guilty verdict on the fact that Carter told Roy over the phone to get back in his truck when it was filling with carbon monoxide.
The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy’s family, but instead listened on the phone as he died.
“After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die,” Supreme Judicial Court Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the court’s opinion affirming her conviction.
During the trial, Carter’s lawyer argued she had initially tried to talk Roy out of suicide and encouraged him to get help. Her lawyer said Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that.
Her phone call with Roy wasn’t recorded, but prosecutors pointed to a rambling text that Carter sent to a friend two months later in which she said called Roy’s death her fault and said she told Roy to “get back in” the truck.
Daniel Marx, who argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court, said last week that the court’s ruling “stretches the law to assign blame for a tragedy that was not a crime.”
He said: ”It has very troubling implications, for free speech, due process, and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, that should concern us all.”