TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — Conrad Roy III would still be alive had it not been for the actions of Michelle Carter in 2014, a prosecutor argued in closing statements in the 20-year-old woman’s involuntary manslaughter trial Tuesday.
But Carter’s defense attorney argued Conrad Roy knew what he was doing when he got into a truck filling up with poisonous gas, and the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Carter was responsible.
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Judge Lawrence Moniz will be the one to render a verdict after reviewing the evidence and testimony. He did not say how much time he needs to deliberate but said he would give advance notice when he’s ready to read the verdict in open court.
The closing arguments came at the end of a seven-day trial that focused on thousands of text messages between the two teenagers, who were romantically involved and discussed Roy’s suicide plans at length for more than a year and a half.
“When he is scared, she orders him to do it,” Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn argued. “He didn’t want to die.”
A key piece of evidence in the case was a text message Carter sent to a friend disclosing that she was on the phone with Roy during the suicide attempt, and told him to get back in the truck when the carbon monoxide was overwhelming him.
“She listened to his last words, she listened to his last breaths,” Rayburn said. “And she listened to him die.”
“Did he get back in the car? Yes. But she ordered him to get back in.” Rayburn said a manslaughter charge does not require the defendant to be present at the scene of the alleged crime.
“It’s a new day and age,” Rayburn said. “The phones we have now allow you be virtually present.” The prosecution has said Carter’s actions were partly motivated by her desire for sympathy and attention from other teen girls.
Carter’s defense attorney dismissed the idea that Roy was not capable of making his own decision, pointing out he appeared to have his faculties in a video recorded a month before his death, and he had the option to hang up the phone while speaking to Carter during the suicide attempt.
“The only person present was Conrad Roy,” Cataldo said. “Michelle Carter did not kill Conrad Roy. It’s sad, it’s tragic but it’s just not a homicide.”
Cataldo pointed to a suicide note Roy left for Carter, where he does not blame her for his death.
“I wish I could express my gratitude,” Roy wrote in the letter. “I love you and greatly appreciate your effort and kindness towards me.”
The defense also presented text messages from 2012 up to early 2014 where Michelle Carter encouraged Roy to get treatment, rather than urging him to kill himself. The “change,” a psychiatrist who testified for the defense argued, came on July 2, 2014, when he said Carter became “involuntarily intoxicated” by the antidepressant Celexa.
Dr. Peter Breggin said Carter had “no notion” of criminality when she encouraged Roy to kill himself.
The prosecution attempted to discredit Breggin by pointing out a pattern of testimony and other writings of his that oppose SSRI antidepressants in general. ADA Rayburn also questioned how Carter suddenly became “intoxicated” three months after she began taking the drug.
“She absolutely knew what she was doing,” Rayburn said. “She absolutely knew it was wrong, and she absolutely caused the death of this 18-year-old boy.”