In Massachusetts, we just saw a textbook example of how bad facts (in this case, horrific facts) can make bad law. Here’s the Washington Post with the details:
In a landmark case, a Massachusetts judge has ruled that Michelle Carter, who urged her boyfriend through phone calls and text messages to kill himself, is responsible for his death.
Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz announced Friday that Carter, 20, is guilty of involuntary manslaughter after placing Conrad Roy III in a situation that led to his suicide in 2014.
There is no question that Carter behaved terribly. In fact, her conduct was unconscionable, and she certainly played a key role in an absolutely heartbreaking death:
Roy, 18, and Carter, who was 17 at the time, had been texting about death in the days and weeks leading up to the tragedy, according to court records. In one message, Carter told him: “You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.”
Moniz, however, focused on Roy’s final moments when he wavered, stepping out of the truck — and Carter told him to “Get back in.” The judge said that though Carter knew Roy was in trouble, she took no action.
“She admits in a subsequent text that she did nothing — she did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family,” Moniz said in court. “Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: ‘Get out of the truck.’”
I see two serious problems with this verdict — one moral, the other legal.