Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Conrad Roy III to commit suicide, was released from prison Thursday after serving 11-months of a 15-month sentence.
Carter’s case commanded national attention because of its First Amendment implications. Her conviction marked the first time an individual was held criminally liable for exhorting another to commit suicide, even though she did not provide Roy with the means of death, nor was she present when he took his own life.
Speaking at a press conference after Carter’s release, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said her upstanding behavior while in custody warranted early release.
“She really actually was a model inmate,” Hodgson said. “She got involved in various programs, hospitality, culinary, the service aid program. She was involved in the kitchen working as kitchen help, got involved in the recovery program, so she was very busy.”
“She’s earned her good time through those programs,” Hodgson added.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the sheriff said authorities focused on ensuring Carter was of sound mental health during her incarceration. Carter has previously received inpatient treatment for an eating disorder.
Michelle Carter walks out of Bristol County jail. pic.twitter.com/I59eSPl6XX
— NBC 10 WJAR (@NBC10) January 23, 2020
The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Carter’s conviction on Jan. 13. In their petition to the high court, Carter’s lawyers contested her conviction on free speech and due process grounds. They argued Carter did not engage in any conduct which facilitated Roy’s death, and that the lower courts “dangerously expanded the common law of involuntary manslaughter in a manner that ‘produces more unpredictability and arbitrariness than the due process clause tolerates.’”
“Carter engaged in ‘pure speech,’” Carter’s petition reads. “Carter neither provided Roy with the means of death (Roy devised the plan to use carbon monoxide, obtained the pump, and placed it in his truck) nor physically participated in his suicide.”
“Because Carter engaged in no acts, her speech was not integral to any conduct, much less criminal conduct,” the petition adds.
Carter was 17 at the time of Roy’s suicide, while Roy was 18. The pair discussed Roy’s suicide at some length in the months preceding his death. Investigators recovered text messages in which Carter admitted to pressuring Roy to complete the act as his will to die wavered. Roy ended his life by flooding his truck with carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot.
“I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in,” she wrote in a text police obtained.
Carter’s lawyers declined to comment on her release. She will remain on probation for five years.
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