Michelle Carter began her first day of a manslaughter trial early Monday in the suicide texting death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, three years ago. The Massachusetts woman, who was 17 at the time of Roy's suicide is at the center of opposing views: the prosecution says Michelle "encouraged" Conrad to kill himself while defense attorneys say the teen had premeditated plans to take his life.
Michelle Carter's fate for the July 12, 2014, death of Conrad Roy is in the hands of Judge Lawrence Moniz; the 20-year-old waived her right to a jury trial Monday at the Bristol County Juvenile Court. Patrick Donovan, a defense lawyer, opined on the strategy, calling it a "gutsy move."
Donovan said Carter's decision was likely made due to the gravity of the high-profile case. The rationale is that a judge will approach the case pragmatically and will not be affected by the emotional testimony and "appalling" details behind Roy's death.
In the opening statements in the Taunton courtroom, prosecutor Maryclare Flynn lambasted Carter for allegedly urging Roy to commit suicide. Flynn said Michelle played a "sick game" and pushed the teen to end his life. Flynn continued, saying Carter was trying to play the victim and sought sympathy from the public that went along with being the "grieving girlfriend." In short, she "wanted attention," as CBS reported.
Carter's defense attorney, Joseph Cataldo, offered another angle of the teen's terminal act. Cataldo said Conrad alone is responsible for his death. The lawyer contends that Roy suffered from depression and was experiencing difficulty coping with his parents' divorce. He told the court that Michelle's boyfriend was a victim of verbal and physical abuse. He added that Conrad had searched online for various suicide methods.Michelle and Conrad met in 2012 while they vacationed separately in Florida. At the time, they lived nearly 40 miles apart in Massachusetts -- Carter in Plainville and Roy in Mattapoisett. They became lovers after only meeting a "handful of times."
Cataldo said the couple stayed in touch frequently via telephone and text messages -- mostly of the latter. He stated his client was concerned about Roy's mental health and urged him to obtain professional counseling or some form of intervention.
"Conrad Roy was on this path to take his own life for years. It was Conrad Roy's idea to take his own life, it was not Michelle Carter's idea. This was a suicide, a sad and tragic suicide, but not a homicide."
Cataldo also said Michelle suffers from "mental issues" and was taking prescription medication around the time she and Conrad exchanged text messages. He contends the latter may have "clouded her judgment."Michelle Carter's trial hinges on several issues that the judge must consider. According to multiple reports, Carter confided in a friend and told them that Conrad's death was her fault.
Documents show that Carter and Roy exchanged numerous emails and texts three days before Conrad's death by suicide (carbon monoxide poisoning). Police say Michelle falsely claimed the teen was missing.
Based on a affidavit, police concluded that Conrad's death was part of a larger plot and Michelle orchestrated his suicide.
"It is believed that Carter acted in this way because she was planning to continue to encourage Conrad to take his own life, so as a result she was beginning to put together a plan to get sympathy from her friends, which was evident because at this point she already started explaining that it's her fault that Conrad is dead, even though he was still alive and speaking and texting with her regularly."
On the day Conrad took his life, Michelle sent a companion a text message, saying that "he just called me and there was a loud noise like a motor and I heard moaning like someone was in pain and he wouldn't answer when I said his name I stayed on the phone for like 20 mins [sic] and that's all I heard."
Later, Michelle told the same friend Roy's suicide was "her fault," and she advised him to get back into the vehicle when he expressed hesitation about carrying out the act.
While Michelle Carter's attorney doesn't push back on the text messages, he says his client's actions were not criminal in nature. Moreover, he argues that manslaughter is an inappropriate charge in this case, according to People magazine.
"A lot of what has been reported thus far is that Michelle Carter always wanted to endorse Conrad Roy's plan to kill himself. But it will be abundantly clear that for weeks prior to agreeing to his plan, she tried to talk him out of it, and he tried to get her to commit suicide with him."
In July of 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a grand jury's decision to hold Michelle Carter accountable for Conrad Roy's suicide.Two things were significant in the earlier ruling: the decision was unanimous, and it marked the first time the court ruled that a person could be charged with involuntary manslaughter on their words alone -- specifically, for "egging him on."
Justice Robert Cordy was the author of the court's opinion to support Carter standing trial in Roy's suicide.
"We conclude that, on the evidence presented to the grand jury, the verbal conduct at issue was sufficient and, because a conviction of involuntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment in State prison and inherently involves the infliction of serious bodily harm, the grand jury properly returned an indictment under the youthful offender statute."
Stay tuned for more updates in Michelle Carter's trial proceedings.
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