In America one of the most honored Constitutional Rights is that of freedom of speech. A person has a right to state that which they wish in most circumstances defined by a very broad brush of liberty under the law.
That alleged freedom of speech however didn't stop Michelle Carter from being found guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter after being the girlfriend of a man she sent several dozen text messages to urging her boyfriend to kill himself.
In a verdict that has shocked many Constitutional Law experts, those same legal experts say it could inadvertently have wide-ranging implications for free speech and assisted suicide.
Carter, 20, could face up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced later this summer on August 3.
Lawrence Moniz, a Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge ruled Carter had displayed wanton and reckless conduct that led to the death of her then-18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy III in Massachusetts in July 2014. At the time Carter was 17, and sent numerous text messages to her boyfriend encouraging Roy to end his existence by belittling him with antagonizing texts for not acting in the desires.
Eventually Roy made the decision to actually end his own life and Carter sent a text telling him to “get back in” his pickup truck, where he was trying to commit suicide from inhaling carbon monoxide. He then proceeded to follow through and his life came to a halt.
The judge said aloud in his public ruling that, “She can hear him coughing and can hear the loud noise of the motor. She constituted wanton and reckless conduct by Ms. Carter where there was a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would arise to Mr. Roy.”
He went on to say “Where one’s action creates a life-threatening risk to another there is a duty to take reasonable steps to alleviate the risk.” In the Judge's opinion, of that which many individuals would disagree with, her actions were responsible for another human beings conscious decisions.
Even though Massachusetts is one of the very few states in which there is no law against assisted suicide, she was found guilty of responsibility and is expected to be accountable.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Massachusetts office immediately came out in strong opposition to the verdict.
“This is a killing in which the murder weapon was words and that is an incredibly broad view of causation and an incredibly broad view of the manslaughter laws in Massachusetts and creates serious concerns about expanding criminal law without doing so through the legislature,” ACLU Massachusetts’ legal director Matthew Segal told Newsweek Friday.
This case has brought about great controversy and debate all across social media, and likely forever demonized the would-be girlfriend of the victim to a life of torment and embarrassment.
Not only does it set a dangerous legal precedent for future cases, it now vilifies and undermines free speech and holds those choosing to exercise their Constitutional Rights accountable for the actions of other people. Such a judgment is unheard of in the American Judicial System and will undoubtedly be appealed to even more of an unwinding storm of chaos from both sides of the argument.