back to article Teen texted boyfriend to kill himself. It worked. Will the law change to deal with digital reality?

Prosecutors in the US who want to send 18-year-old Michelle Carter to jail for her boyfriend's suicide have rested their case after three days in court. The Massachusetts teenager is charged with involuntary manslaughter after she sent hundreds of texts to her then-lover Conrad Roy III back in 2014 urging him to follow through …

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Re: All this vitriol for a little girl ...

I think I missed your point too, Jake , and on re reading I think Baldricks point more valid than yours.

Your point seems to be that the parents should bear some reponsibility.

I agree that parents should nuture , look after , keep safe , educate , moralise their children - give them boundaries et etc

but none of that would have helped in this case short of bringing up your child in a kind of concentration camp environment that in itself would be a child cruelty offense

She was 15 at the time , 17 by the time she convinced the poor kid to do it .

At 17 you have to loosen the strings a bit and let your offspring start to paddle in the adult pool.

The only way her parents could've stopped this is by regularly reading her texts - and if they were doing that she would simply delete them after reading / sending , not to mention that no 17 year old girl on earth would consider her texts any of her paernts business and agree to let them read them.

And to add my 2 cents I think she's a pretty vindictive evil bitch to embark on what seems at least a 2 year capaign of bullying "an ex" .

I dont know how people end up like that or if the parebts could have done anything about it . maybe she takes after them? maybe not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All this vitriol for a little girl ...

"Consider that she was pre-teen when the "relationship" began, and was barely 15 when it ended."

She was 17 according to the articles I've read. If she lived in England or Wales she could be married and have children of her own by that age. It's difficult to argue that she wasn't old enough to understand the consequences of her actions.

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Re: All this vitriol for a little girl ...

This is beyond parental influence. This girl is clearly some level of sociopath or psychopath. There's no changing those people, there's just not. Most counselors and such won't even try to treat them because all they do is learn to fake being human better. I'm all too familiar with this, personal experience with a few.

So no, punishing the parents would be grossly unjust.

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Re: All this vitriol for a little girl ...

In the UK criminal responsibility starts at 10 years of age. In fact it's even possible to be tried for murder as an adult at 10 and there was a very famous case where that happened.

Normally it's 18 when you are tried as an adult.

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Oh no! Cyber!!

But in the modern digital era, where text messages are often the main form of communication.

The use of text messages is irrelevant. If she had phoned, or written a letter, or sent a frigging carrier pigeon it wouldn't be news.

But OMFG she sent a TEXT, which almost like she did it on THE INTERNET!!!

Cue the terror inducing use of "cyber" prefixes.

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Re: Oh no! Cyber!!

Well, as this is a tech/IT website, so the fact they are talking about the technology aspects of the case seems pretty appropriate.

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Prison

she did not "pull the trigger" (yes it was a generator but...).

This is clearly incitement for someone to commit an act..... if he had gone out and killed someone else she would be in the dock with him.

The only mitigating issue would have been if this was a spur of a moment thing and "I did not mean it".... but this took place over a period of time... you could say she groomed him to kill himself.

Very sad case but a clear signal has to be sent that this type of behaviour is unacceptable

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Anonymous Coward

Is american law stupid?

Czech law has "encouraging suicide" as criminal offence since forever. Current sentencing since 2009 is: up to three years, 2-8 years if victim is teen or pregnant women, 5-12 if victim is kid or insane.

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Re: Is american law stupid?

Whackypedia says that by the late 1980s it was illegal to encourage suicide in every state (link) and she was over the age of criminal responsibility when she was sending the texts so it should be an open and shut case.

Why does the headline suggest the law needs to be updated because texts?

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Re: Is american law stupid?

Depends on the wording of the law.

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Re: Is american law stupid?

While it might be illegal in every state to encourage suicide, presumably the punishment is considerably lower than the punishment for manslaughter/murder. Also, even if the encouragement was successful, there would usually be some difficulty in establishing the encouragement as a significant factor in the victims decision to take their own life. This case is rather unique in that her actions went a long way beyond encouragement - she bombarded him with texts demanding that he take the next step towards suicide and berating him when he failed to do so. It's also compounded by the fact that he expressed his own desire not to go through with it, and she did everything she could to persuade him to do so.

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Re: Is american law stupid?

So that's a "yes' then.

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So....

Narcissistic sociopathy?

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Re: So....

I think only sociopath, or more correctly psychopath ('sociopath' was invented when the brain boffins thought that people could be induced to be a psychopath, a guess research has not borne out). Narcissists are basically black holes of need. They want love and approval. Psychopaths like to watch the world burn. Indeed, one of the marks of a psychopath is he or she is very interested in the suffering or animals and people and will hurt animals (even flies) out of a fascination for something they can't share, having no empathy. They do like grandstanding and being at the centre of attention, but only because they see themselves as superior beings Narcissists project being a superior being because they know they are little unloved wounded creatures inside.

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Windows

Re: So....

@ DAM: terminology aside, I agree.

@Hollerithevo:

How about we go with my definition of the case - Drama Lama gone bad.

She *wanted the attention* of being the bereft girlfriend, and went over the top after his death to be the 'wonderful person' that was 'left behind'. This is quite indicative - of several things.

Society has stranded that generation with the *need* to be unique and special - our education system no longer prepares them for any sort of failure, or even worse, being 'joe blow middle of the road'. They must be, they will be, they OF COURSE are the next (superhero/supergenius/wonderkind) of the day. This leaves the vast majority of them feeling horribly inadequate as they have not rocked the universe by the time they're 16. TV/movies/internet/music have left them all with an utterly disgusting imbalance as to what is success, what is pretty, what is handsome, what is successful, what is a relationship. (Youtube is one of the worst, with twats like that noisemaker who recently got fired). Social media ENCOURAGES drama. I mean if you don't have something (someone died/someone won/ someone loves me/ someone hates me/someone left a burning bag of dogshit on my porch and it burnt down the ENTIRE NEIGHBOURHOOD) interesting as post you wont get a million likes and become viral famous rich youtube celebrity overnight.

All that out the door, yes, the family are relatively involved in the situation. So are the rest of her social circle. And *their* parents. And the schools. And the advertisers. And the TV producers. Oh. Shit. Most of the society we've built.

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Re: So....

No, it's not society and entitlement and her parents and social circle. She's an antisocial personality disorder textbook example. Go read up on them, it's glaringly obvious.

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Stop

Re: So....

It's possible for psychopathy and narcissism to exist in the same person, as two parts of the so-called "dark triad" (along with Machiavellianism): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So....

Only one alternative then: lock up all sociopaths / psychopaths / people with antisocial personality disorders.

/sarcasm off.

Like that's going to solve the problem.

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Either there was a rational motive (like money, revenge etc) in which case she's guilty of something very close to murder, or there was not rational motive (so it made her feel powerful, she enjoyed seeing people suffer, she was a control freak beyond normal control freakery) in which case she's insane. Either way, she should be taken out of general circulation. I pity her next boyfriend.

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What about Free Will?

I don't think involuntary manslaughter fits. She may be an evil bitch, she didn't coerce that guy to kill himself AFAIK. So unless this guy had some proved weaknesses as mental illness, he was responsible of his own actions. However, she was clearly harassing him, and if there are laws against harassment where she is, that would fit better IMHO.

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Facepalm

Re: What about Free Will?

"So unless this guy had some proved weaknesses as mental illness"

Do you know of anyone that killed themselves or tried to kill themselves that couldn't be described as "having a mental illness" ?

There is an awful lot of bollocks being written in this forum.

people with depression / anxiety / low self-esteem can be manipulated into pretty much any state of mind.

This girl made a determined effort to push this guy in a direction she wanted him to go in, for whatever reason (and only she'll ever really know the answer to that question) The content of the texts are clear and damning . There can be very little doubt she did what she's accused of, this trial is about how much of the responsibility she bares.

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Re: What about Free Will?

Do you know of anyone that killed themselves or tried to kill themselves that couldn't be described as "having a mental illness" ?

Socrates, Cleopatra, Dido, Japanese samurais, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Brossolette...

There are many reasons to commit suicide: the end of physical suffering, a conception of honor, religious beliefs...

people with depression / anxiety / low self-esteem can be manipulated into pretty much any state of mind.

Yep, you're right, there is an awful lot of bollocks being written in this forum.

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Meh

Re: What about Free Will?

@Potemkine

And you can attest to the state of mind of those people can you?

religion? honor? LOL...

You don't think someone in constant pain hasn't had their mental health affected?

You don't think that someone with a mental health problem can be manipulated?

You're an idiot.

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Re: What about Free Will?

And you can attest to the state of mind of those people can you?

It seems you do, don't you?

You don't think that someone with a mental health problem can be manipulated?

I do not think that you can manipulate somebody to make whatever you want because that person is depressive, and I know that first hand.

You're an idiot.

Sometimes it's an honor to be insulted by some people, and it's such an occurrence. So thank you!

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Re: What about Free Will?

"I do not think that you can manipulate somebody to make whatever you want because that person is depressive, and I know that first hand."

One data point doesn't make a trend, and whatever your experience is (which I am not dismissing - depression is real and it sucks for the person suffering it and everyone who cares for them) doesn't seem to represent the whole continuum of depression. The longing to feel good, even just better than your normal state, can drive some people to some incredible extremes of behavior. Likewise the desire to not disappoint a person who you are allowing to determine your self-value (which seems like the case here) can drive you to actions you would never normally consider.

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Re: What about Free Will?

"this trial is about how much of the responsibility she bares."

I thought it was to point of the trial to bare degree of responsibility...

@Potemkine!/Potemkine just wondering - why exactly would one need alt accounts...? Do you have a doppelgänger?

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Re: What about Free Will?

"I do not think that you can manipulate somebody to make whatever you want because that person is depressive, and I know that first hand."

There are many types of depression. I've suffered with it for over twenty years and have to take medication on a daily basis to prevent me entering a depressive state. Depression isn't been 'depressed' (i.e. sad). That can be one form, but another, which I have, is where you entirely withdraw from everything and enter a semi-autonomous state. The best I can describe it is as an out of body experience. You know that you're being unreasonable, doing things you wouldn't normally do, acting a complete jerk but you literally have no control over it. When in this state of mind you can find yourself doing things that you don't intend and wouldn't dream of doing while non-depressed. You can see it but just can't stop it. In this state of mind I can easily see someone being manipulated and coerced into undesired behaviour. I have scars on my arms from when I've been in a depressive state. Afterwards it is always "why the hell did I do that?" but at the time I cut myself I knew I was doing it but just couldn't prevent it. It wasn't me, I was just spectating.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about Free Will?

So anybody who thinks differently to the majority of the population (ie the "normal" people") has a mental illness?

Really?!?

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Re: What about Free Will?

"Depression isn't been 'depressed' (i.e. sad). That can be one form, but another, which I have, is where you entirely withdraw from everything and enter a semi-autonomous state."

Then there's the place where you see the world is against you, and everything it says equals "You're total sh*t."

This unfortunate guy seems to have been in that place, and her actions seem calculated to keep him there and then kill him off. Believe you me, I've run up against the sort of person who'd do that; I've taken good care not to let them know at that time I was in that place.

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Re: What about Free Will?

and her actions seem calculated to keep him there and then kill him off. Believe you me, I've run up against the sort of person who'd do that

And usually excuse it by saying "I was only joking" or "it's only words, they don't matter".

The cry of sociopaths everywhere.

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Holmes

If it was someone else

Would there be any controversy if she'd encouraged him to kill someone else? Would she not be accessory to murder?

I don't know genuine question.

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I think that we can all agree that the defendant's texts, and her treatment of the defendant, were bad things. The defendant's acts were, of course, indefensible, but their legality is quite another question.

Academically, I don't see that this prosecution can produce a sustainable conviction. Massachusetts, strangely unlike other states whose manslaughter crime definitions I've encountered, and unlike model criminal codes I've seen, has no statute defining manslaughter. Instead, from what I've read, it's been left to the courts to define it. The definiton I've seen has a bit of vagueness that seems to have left a gray area that the prosecution is attempting to argue for a conviction. That's difficult in the best of cases.

I think that they'll run into problems with this vagueness, and this case being one of first impression. There was no physical interaction with the victim to cause his death, as has occurred in all the manslaughter cases I've had knowledge of. Also, it's necessary to acknowledge that the victim was a separate individual, complete with free will, who committed the act that caused his death, and did it alone. Further, it's settled law, in general, that a person has to be given notice of what behavior constitutes a crime. In addition to everything else, I think that it will be hard to show that there was sufficient notice for a reasonable person to understand that the crime of manslaughter would be committed, if a suicide ensued.

I have no idea if there are other crimes that could have been charged here, perhaps a conspiracy to commit a crime, if they've got a general conspiracy statute and suicide is illegal there. But I think manslaughter will be a tough sell.

It'll be interesting to see the result at trial, and on appeal. It may even be thrown out of court on the defense motion. We'll see. One thing that may come out of this is the Massachusetts legislature finally defining the crime of manslaughter in a statute.

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I'm wondering if the boy's family has a case for wrongful death. That's what the Goldmans and Browns got OJ on, even though he was acquitted of murder.

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Well, I think she's hot and looks like a dirty burd.

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Assisted suicide

Is assisted suicide illegal there? Could they get her on some assisted suicide laws (in that without her encouragement it is reasonable to believe that he would have failed in his attempt to commit suicide)

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Re: Assisted suicide

You wouldn't use carbon dioxide for assisted suicide. As the carbon dioxide builds up in your bloodstream, you start to gasp and panic.

If you were looking for a particularly unpleasant way to die, that would be one of them.

For genuine assisted suicide by asphyxiation, you'd want to breathe an inert gas. There's no serum CO2 buildup, and therefore no final moments of terror. Nitrogen is, of course, best, but a nice pressurized tank of helium is easy to rent from any party store, for not a whole lot of money. Beyond that, you just need a little hose, a garbage bag, and some duct tape. If you have a CPAP machine already, then you can use that hose, and you can use the mask instead of the garbage bag. It would be as peaceful as going to sleep normally.

I've gotten as far as assembling all the materials except for the helium. They've been in my bedside chest for two years. The nearest party store that sells helium is 3 1/2 miles away.

You can say "Freedom of speech" or "she was only 17" or "he was depressed anyway" as much as you like, but from where I'm standing, she's as guilty as if she put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger herself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Assisted suicide

'I've gotten as far as assembling all the materials except for the helium. They've been in my bedside chest for two years.'

Do yourself a huge favour - change one thing. Take that box, drag it outside and burn it. Trust me, it starts a better life right there and then.

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The compelling evidence isn't that she said mean things. It's the repetition. She brainwashed him into killing himself. The fact that he was already depressed is what made her successful. It is not a mitigating circumstance.

5 years? I'd throw her in the clink for 30. If there were friends, family, or faculty who knew what she was up to, I'd give those people 5 years under the Massachusetts duty to rescue law.

I have no compassion for bullies.

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Yeuch. Yeuch.

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What responsibility ...

... does the average member of the public (i.e. not trained in psychology) have to avoid triggering an unstable person to commit a crime?

This case may be over the top in that it was an ongoing effort on the part of Carter to get her boyfriend to commit suicide. But how many repeated contacts does it take? Can we hold Sarah Palin responsible for Loughner's attempted assassination? In Palin's case, she didn't contact Loughner and didn't even know him. But the public nature of her publicity (the crosshairs political ads) ensured that they were bound to fall on the ears of at least one person crazy enough to carry them out.

And can we apply the same standards to anyone who preaches "Kill all [insert name of demonized group]!" when someone actually drives a truck through them?

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Isnt this an extreme case of 'Would you jump of a bridge if your friend told you?'

Sure, she may be a nasty, evil (but hot) bitch but ...

Parents?

Family??

Friends?

Teachers?

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Anonymous Coward

If someone asked you to just off a cliff, would you? Er... yes cos I'm a tard.

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Anonymous Coward

The irony...

Is that many posting on this forum wouldn't have any problem if she went and killed herself, judging by their comments. As long as they weren't legally culpable...

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Unhappy

RTFA

I may have got this all wrong, but from my reading of the article the case is ongoing.

We generally all have the right witness and to report on the proceedings of a public trial here in the UK, and AFAIK in the States. But in either jurisdiction do we have the right to publicly pre empt the jury's verdict? Errr ...

Speaking completely hypothetically, in tragic cases similar to this we have little or no knowledge of the mental state of anyone involved, and some of the comments I have read here could easily tip someone over the brink to ...

Careful, folks.

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Anonymous Coward

Finally a /b/ro did it. Yay!

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It's not clear why she'd done that. But there is something in the reports that made me think... It looks that for a long while in the past she was doing quite the opposite - trying to talk him out of his suicidal moods, urging to seek therapy... Then something's changed.

Close relationships with suicidal people are incredibly difficult. They eat at you every moment of every day. You never let yourself completely relax, even when things seem okay. Every word, every intonation can be a sign of an impending mood change and the black emotional abyss behind.

It may be that she has become burnt out. Unable to cope, unable to see any other way out of it.

What she did was still wrong and there can be no excuse. But her motivation might not have been the sadistic attention seeking or control freakery as is our first instinctive reaction to assume...

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