TAUNTON, Mass. — A juvenile court judge on Thursday is expected to hear directly from Michelle Carter, the now 20-year-old woman found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.
It was Carter’s own words in text messages that helped seal her conviction. Hundreds of her text messages presented as evidence over six days of testimony in June convinced a Massachusetts judge of her guilt in a criminal case that hinged largely on the teenage couple’s intimate cellphone exchanges.
Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz will sentence the 20-year-old Thursday. The hearing is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT. Carter faces up to 20 years in prison, though one expert said such a lengthy sentence is unlikely.
“She will be given little, if any, jail time, in my view,” said Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst.
“The crime was horrific, but based upon her youth, I believe the judge’s sentence will focus more on rehabilitation than on punishment. Though some punishment would be appropriate — and I think the judge also needs to deter copy cats.”
Conrad Roy III, 18, poisoned himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck. His body was found July 13, 2014, a day after his suicide in his parked truck in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, nearly 40 miles from his home.
Judge Moniz heard the case after Carter waived her right to a jury trial. She was tried in juvenile court because she was 17 at the time of the crime.
“She instructs Mr. Roy to get back into the truck well-knowing of all of the feelings that he has exchanged with her; his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns. This court finds that in instructing Mr. Roy to get back into the truck constituted… wanton and reckless conduct by Miss Carter creating a situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to Mr. Roy,” Judge Lawrence Moniz said when he announced her guilty verdict.
“She did not notify his mother or his sister even though just several days before that she had requested their phone numbers from Mr. Roy… She called no one. And finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction, ‘Get out of the truck.’ Consequently, this court has found that the Commmonwealth has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Miss Carter’s actions and also her failure to act where she had a self created duty to Mr. Roy since she had put him into that toxic environment constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct,” the judge continued.
The prosecution asked the judge to revoke bail, but the judge ruled that she could remain free on bail until her sentencing.
Carter went from offering “words of kindness and love” to aggressively encouraging Roy via text message to carry out longtime threats to commit suicide, Bristol Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn told the court.
“It got to the point that he was apologizing to her, … apologizing to her for not being dead yet,” Rayburn said in her closing argument.
Rayburn reminded the judge of text messages in which Carter encouraged Roy to get back in the truck, where he eventually died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In text messages to a friend, she described hearing his finals words and breaths on the phone.
The case — which could prompt the drawing up of new laws to deal with the behavior highlighted in the trial — has been closely watched by legal analysts.