By Beth David, Editor
The trial of Michelle Carter, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of Conrad Roy III, concluded on Tuesday, 6/13. Ms. Carter’s fate is in the hands of Judge Lawrence Moniz, who did not say when he would issue his ruling. Ms. Carter waived a jury in her trial, opting to have her case heard by Judge Moniz alone. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
Mr. Roy was found in his pickup truck in the KMart parking lot on July 13, 2014. A gas-powered water pump was in the truck with him. The medical examiner determined that Mr. Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Prosecutors contend that, in a series of thousands of text messages, chats and other contact by electronic means over the course of months, Ms. Carter bullied, manipulated, and berated Mr. Roy to get him to kill himself. Prosecutors contend she did it to get attention as the “grieving girlfriend,” especially from a group of girls who no longer wanted to be friends with her.
Texts show, however, that the Mr. Roy did not consider her his girlfriend, even blatantly saying in one text that he would not date her.
Testimony throughout the trial painted the picture of two very disturbed young people who had psychiatric hospital stays in their backgrounds, him for suicide attempts, and her for eating disorders.
In testimony this week, Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist called by the defense, said that Ms. Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated,” was “delusional” and “psychotic,” due to the anti-depressant drugs she was taking. He explained the dangers of SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, how they work, and how they can wreak havoc on the brain, especially the adolescent brain. Ms. Carter was just a month shy of 18 when Mr. Roy killed himself. He was 18, and they both were on Celexa, an SSRI not recommended for children (anyone under 18).
The controversial doctor, who is in his 80s, has been fighting against the use of all psychiatric drugs for decades. He has written books and papers, and admitted to the court that he did not believe in any drugs to treat psychiatric disorders.
His descriptions of Ms. Carter as exceedingly helpful, and always caring about other people, painted quite the different picture of Ms. Carter than the Commonwealth.
Prosecutor Katie Rayburn painted the picture of a calculating, manipulative and selfish girl who only thought about how people would respond to her as the grieving girlfriend.
Dr. Breggin said that Ms. Carter’s delusion made her think she was doing a good thing by helping Mr. Roy get to heaven. He said all her prodding came after a dose change that sent her into a spiral.
Ms. Rayburn disagreed, and challenged Dr. Breggin’s timeline and assertions every step of the way.
She pointed to a text where Ms. Carter told Mr. Roy she felt he was making a fool of her because he kept making excuses not to kill himself.
“She berated him,” said Ms. Rayburn in her closing argument. “And lo and behold, he had the audacity, the audacity to still be alive the next day.”
She said every time he came up with a reason why he did not want to kills himself, including that he did not want to hurt his family, Ms. Carter “kicked his feet right out from under him.”
She even promised to take care of his family.
Dr. Breggin said that only pointed to her “grandiosity” that she felt she could make his family feel better.
But Ms. Rayburn dismissed Dr. Breggin’s praise of Ms. Carter calling his bias “blinding.”
Ms. Rayburn pointed out that the suicide letter the defense cited to say that Mr. Roy loved Ms. Carter, was actually something that Ms. Carter had asked Mr. Roy to write to her. Ms. Carter also asked him to make his last tweet on Twitter to her.
“This is all about her,” said Mr. Rayburn, and pointed to a series of texts when Ms. Carter is telling some friends that he is missing and could be dead when he is not; at the same time she is texting a boy to start a relationship with him.
Ms. Carter even tells a friend that Mr. Roy’s mother said Michelle was “the most important person in his life,” when in fact, Ms. Carter had not contacted Mr. Roy’s mother at all.
“Now, she’s the grieving girlfriend,” said Ms. Rayburn, calling it a “dry run.”
She said that after telling everyone Mr. Roy was missing and dead, Ms. Carter had to make sure he died or her friends, one friend in particular, would hate her for lying. That is when Ms. Carter intensified her goading of Mr. Roy.
Ms. Rayburn also took aim at the argument that Ms. Carter was not physically present. She said phones and other means of communication allow a person to be “virtually present.”
“It’s a new day and age,” said Ms. Rayburn, adding that people fall in love on the internet and commit crimes via the internet.
She pointed out that the court has never required physical presence for a person to be found guilty of a crime.
“She was in his ear,” she said, and she was in his mind and she was on the phone.
Ms. Carter knew what she was doing, knew the consequences of her actions, and knew it was wrong, said Ms. Rayburn.
“She absolutely caused the death of this 18-year-old boy,” she said.
Defense attorney Joseph Cataldo made a simple point in his closing argument: Mr. Roy’s death was a suicide, not a homicide. Ms. Carter was not there, he said. She was younger than Mr. Roy, he could have blocked her calls, not taken her calls, asked her to stop, but he did none of that. He was not bullied, he was asking her for his help.
Mr. Cataldo said that it was Ms. Carter who was pushed to the point of being “overwhelmed,” and that the prescribed drugs she was taking clouded her judgement.
He said Mr. Roy had been plotting and planning to kill himself for years, and finally did it. He “dragged” Ms. Carter into it, and pointed to a text where Mr. Roy apologized to Ms. Carter for “dragging” her into it.
“She was brought into this by Conrad Roy,” said Mr. Cataldo.
He urged the judge to watch the video to prove it, the same video that the prosecution pointed to as “hopeful.” It is a self-recorded video Mr. Roy made talking about his life.
Mr. Cataldo said that Mr. Roy was intelligent enough to know what would happen if he got into the truck with the water pump running in it.
Mr. Cataldo also went step by step through the actions that Mr. Roy had to take to get the water pump there, first trying to use a generator that would not work, then physically loading the pump, driving to the KMart, etc. All the while, Michelle Carter was 30 miles away in Plainville.
Mr. Cataldo painted picture of a naive young girl who was in love with the older Mr. Roy, who took advantage of her.
“There’s nothing anyone can do for me to make me want to live,” said Mr. Cataldo, referring to one of Mr. Roy’s texts to Ms. Carter.
Mr. Cataldo also said that much has been made of Ms. Carter’s claim that she told Mr. Roy to get back in the truck when he got out because he was scared. Mr. Cataldo said that the prosecution went to great pains to prove Ms. Carter a liar, then pointed to that one email and wants the court to believe it is true.
“They’re picking and choosing,” said Mr. Cataldo. “Nobody really knows what happened.”
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