You may remember that old adage from childhood, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Well, a new case precedent may change that. Recently, a juvenile judge found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter after text messages revealed she urged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III to “get back in” his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide.
The troubling relationship between Carter and Roy began back in 2012 when the two were teenagers. Their relationship was largely virtual and included numerous disturbing text messages from Carter where Carter encouraged Roy to take his own life. Roy ultimately capitulated in 2014 after receiving a particularly chilling message from Carter where the then 17-year-old told Roy that the “time is right” and “you need to do it.”
Now, I am not a criminal defense attorney, and I do not purport to be an expert in criminal law. What I can say is I agree with Professor Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University school of law, who states that there is a difference between something that is against morality and something that is against the law.
Undoubtedly, what Carter did was against our moral framework, and it deserves to be punished in some fashion. If you believe in God, she will have to answer to the Ultimate Judge for her incredibly foolhardy, selfish, and despicable behavior. But, would I, sitting as a human judge convict someone for their words? It’s a slippery slope to do so, my friends. If we can be convicted for speaking, out goes the First Amendment and incomes governmental oppression. Now, what Carter did was atrocious and horrendous, and she should be punished for it. Convicting her of involuntary manslaughter, however, is the wrong way to go.