Sunday, August 6, 2017

Is Michelle Carter a Witch?

Michelle Carter is free, awaiting the appeal of her conviction for involuntary manslaughter. You know all about this case. The seventeen year old girl nudged, pushed, influenced, induced her sometime boyfriend, Conrad Roy to kill himself by gassing himself within a vehicle. And she did it all via text messages.

Carter encouraged Roy to commit suicide. He had told her that he wanted to do it. He had planned out how to do it. She suggested that he man up and go through with it. She promised that it would free him of his pain. When he wanted to escape the gas chamber he created, she told him to get back into the car.

He did as she said. But, does that make her words a weapon? Was it equivalent to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre? Does that make her a killer? Has anyone considered that seventeen-year-olds have a deficient moral sense?

Aside for what this tells us about girl power, one notes that Carter did not hypnotize Roy and did not bewitch him. Nevertheless, she is being treated very much like a witch… a woman who cast a spell on a man, did him grievous harm and who deserves to be punished.

But, what would happen if she had told him to kill himself and he did not go through with it? Would that make her guilty of attempted manslaughter or even attempted homicide? Since manslaughter seems to refer to crimes committed in the heat of passion and since Carter was fully aware of what she was doing, why wasn’t she charged with murder? Again, if Roy had not committed suicide, would she have been charged with attempted murder?Obviously, this would put the first amendment into a deep chill. It would open you up to prosecution every time you told someone to: Drop dead!

Carter was tried and convicted by a judge. She chose not to have a jury trial. Now, the general opinion, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Review agrees that she was unjustly convicted. On several different grounds, all of them worth our consideration.

Mr. Roy's death is a terrible tragedy, but it is not a reason to stretch the boundaries of our criminal laws or abandon the protections of our constitution.

There is no law in Massachusetts making it a crime to encourage someone, or even to persuade someone, to commit suicide. Yet Ms. Carter has now been convicted of manslaughter, based on the prosecution's theory that, as a 17-year-old girl, she literally killed Mr. Roy with her words. This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.

Writing in National Review, David French noted that Conrad Roy took his own life. He did it of his own volition, freely.

French wrote:

First, Conrad Roy is responsible for his death. To argue that Carter committed manslaughter is to diminish Roy’s moral agency. It denies his free will. It’s wrong to deny compassion to someone so troubled that they’d attempt suicide, but we can’t move so far in the other direction that we race to find who’s “really” to blame when a person voluntarily takes their own life. It’s still an act of self-murder, and while Carter undoubtedly played a persuasive role, I can’t imagine where we will draw the line. Will we prosecute mean people for manslaughter when troubled teens kill themselves?

Carter’s actions were reprehensible, but she was sharing with him thoughts and opinions that he may have found persuasive but had the capacity to reject. A legal argument that renders otherwise-protected speech unlawful because it actually persuades would blast a hole in First Amendment jurisprudence. 

Elie Mystal invoked the free will argument in the Above the Law blog:

If “free will” is to mean anything, you cannot “suicide” a person to death. You can murder someone, you can accidentally murder someone, you can pay someone to murder someone for you, you can set up a criminal organization under which murders occur on your behalf, you can even set up conditions so inherently unsafe that you are criminally responsible for anybody who happens to die. But you can’t kill a person who kills themselves. The self-killing breaks the causal chain between your actions, however reprehensible, and the death.

Apparently, Carter was mean to Roy. And yet, she did not force him to do what he did:

Carter’s texts to her then-boyfriend were undoubtedly mean. Abusive even. She encouraged him to kill himself, believing, she claims, that he really wanted to do it and that he would be happier in heaven if he did. She also called him on his cell phone, encouraging him to go through with it. Allegedly, at one point Roy got out of his car and Carter told him to get back in.

Carter was not disturbing the peace. She was not inciting a riot. She didn’t push him into the car and lock the door. She didn’t turn on the gas. She didn’t threaten to kill him if he didn’t do it himself. She told him that if he wanted to kill himself that he absolutely should.

Mystal concluded:

The prosecution of Michelle Carter clearly isn’t about justice. It’s about revenge and deterrence. We want to punish Carter because her texts were so mean, and we want to warn teens not to bully each other online because there will be consequences. Convicting someone for texting a man to death is a perverse miscarriage of justice, but if it stops one teen from body-shaming a fellow teen on Instagram, most parents will be cool with the conviction.

Mystal said that Carter was a mean bitch. Close, but no cigar. But, he was only off by one letter. He should have seen that the prosecution was about hunting down and punishing witches. This is Massachusetts, after all.


trigger warning said...

Progressives are very superstitious. The popularity of frauds like "Starhawk" and her ilk testify to this.

This case is but one example of the weird belief that words and images can direct the forces of nature and human behavior. Carter's conviction is no different in kind from the NYT's assertion that Sarah Palin's political imagery "caused" the Giffords shooting.

MA is perhaps the most Progressive state in America, and it is no coincidence the it was also the jurisdiction responsible for the Fells Acres miscarriage of justice. Fells Acres caus ed a national hysteria and popularized the bizarre persecutions of child care workers using therapists to discern "magic rooms" and "secret" subterranean cells to perform ritualistic sexual abuse of preschoolers.

Sam L. said...

I am sorry to say that I read the hed as "Is Michelle Obama A Witch". Wait. What???

Brookside said...

Peter Breggin has written about this case and believes that Carter is a victim and the media has sensationalized the story. Psychiatric drugs improperly given to the suicide victim and Carter might be a factor.
From what I read, Carter may have been severely depressed herself. Breggin has promised to continue researching this.
It looks like a modern day witch hunt. After all, this is happening in Mass.
The article is at

Sam L. said...

WHAT?? The media sensationalized the story?? Why would it do that? More eyeballs, more clicks. Ruining their reputation one story at a time.

Ares Olympus said...

Its certainly fair to call this assisted suicide, even if not manslaughter. Laws vary by state. My state of Minnesota is more specific where you can get 7 years, even if the person fails in killing themselves. Obviously the first rule of assisting suicide is to not leave evidence behind!
Massachusetts Common law is based on principles, customs and case law, rather than on a specific statute.
Minnesota Minn. Stat. § 609.215
Aiding suicide: Whoever intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking
the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.
Aiding attempted suicide: Whoever intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another who attempts but fails to take the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or to payment of a fine of not more than $14,000, or both.

trigger warning said...

You should inform the courts, prosecutors, and defense counsel in MA.