PLAINVILLE — The state says justices should reject a petition by Michelle Carter to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, because there is no First Amendment issue to decide in the landmark texting-suicide case.
Lawyers for Michelle Carter, 23, who is currently in jail serving a 15-month sentence, argued that her text messages and calls were protected free speech and that she was not responsible for the suicide of Conrad Roy III.
In their response filed last month, the state Attorney General’s office says the court’s verdict in Carter’s speech is consistent with previous decisions by the nation’s highest court regarding “speech integral to criminal conduct.”
“Inasmuch as petitioner’s wanton or reckless conduct causing Roy’s death was carried out by speech, that speech was therefore un-protected because it was integral to the commission of involuntary manslaughter,” according to the state attorney’s general’s response.
Carter filed what is called a certiorari petition. Experts say the court accepts about 1.2 percent of the petitions they receive.
Roy, 18, of Mattapoisett, killed himself in July 2014 by breathing in toxic carbon monoxide from a gas-powered water pump in placed in his pickup truck. Carter, then a 17-year-old at King Phillip Regional High School, was at her Plainville home at the time and spoke twice by phone to Roy in addition to text messages.
Before Roy’s suicide, prosecutors argued that Carter and Roy shared an intimate online relationship over several months and that she coerced him into killing himself.
Presiding over Carter’s jury-waived trial, Taunton Juvenile Judge Lawrence Moniz ruled that Carter caused Roy’s death when she instructed him to get back in his truck as it was filling with toxic gas after he changed his mind about killing himself.
Carter told friends she could hear the motor from the water pump and Roy moaning before he stopped responding to her calls.
The state Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld her conviction in a landmark decision criticized by free speech advocates and legal scholars.
In the state attorney general’s 29-page response, it argued that the SJC’s decision was correct.
The document was written by state Attorney General Maura Healey, state Solicitor Elizabeth Dewar and assistant attorney general Maria Granick, argues that the justices should deny Carter’s petition.
In the response, Healey also argued that Carter’s due process rights were not violated and that the state’s manslaughter statute is “not unconstitutionally vague” as applied to her conduct.
Carter’s lawyers also argued the state SJC created a conflict with at least three other state supreme courts about the application of the First Amendment in such circumstances. But the attorney general’s office said there is no conflict. Carter was convicted in 2017 and sentenced in February. Earlier this year, a former Boston College student was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for involuntary manslaughter in a similar texting suicide case.