Teen Texts Can and Will Be Used Against Them in a Court of Law

by Diane Dimond on July 18, 2016

We've Lost the Art of Face-to-Face Conversation

We’ve Lost the Art of Face-to-Face Conversation

Everyone knows teenagers say and do stupid things. Sometimes, really stupid things. And unless you’ve kept the teenager in your life under a rock they also text each other way too much.

A criminal case in Massachusetts highlights how both those behaviors ––thoughtless actions and texting out every thought in one’s head –– can come back to haunt. Please talk to your kids about this.

In July 2014, a young man named Conrad Roy committed suicide by hooking up a hose to a portable generator and snaking it inside the cab of his truck. Conrad, 18, was a troubled kid who had been under mental health treatment for nearly 5 years. He had tried to commit suicide in 2013 and was hospitalized. His longtime girlfriend was a pretty, young 17-year-old named Michelle Carter.

Investigators found extensive discussion of suicide between Conrad and Michelle, documented in voluminous text messaging records. Conrad seemed to almost constantly talk about taking his own life. Michelle, according to texts contained in court documents, seemed to encourage him at every step and mock him when he failed to follow through.

Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy - Doomed

Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy – Doomed

On July 12, 2014 at about 4:30 a.m. Michelle wrote to Conrad about his destructive thoughts. “So I guess you aren’t going to do it then, all that (planning) for nothing.”

Conrad wrote back, “I really don’t know what I’m waiting for … But I have everything lined up.”

Michelle answered, “It’s probably the best time now because everyone sleeping…Just go somewhere in your truck. If you don’t do it now you’re never going to do it.” She cryptically added, “And u can say you’ll do it tomorrow but you probably won’t.”

The next day, July 13, 2014, Conrad loaded his portable contraption into his truck and headed for an isolated section of a K-mart parking lot. Investigators discovered that while he was locked inside waiting for the carbon monoxide to take his life he had been talking on the telephone with Michelle. Two separate telephone calls that lasted nearly an hour and a half. At one point Conrad panicked and got out of the truck. His girlfriend urged him to “get back in” and get it over with.

Roy's Death Has Been Called "Suicide by Girlfriend"

Roy’s Death Has Been Called “Suicide-By-Girlfriend”

Conrad’s body was discovered by police the next morning, his cell phone by his side. Even then Michelle kept up her incriminating texting. To her friend, Samantha Boardman, she wrote, “I helped ease him into it and told him it was okay. I was talking to him on the phone when he did it. I could have easily stopped him or called the police but I didn’t.”

“Sam, (the police) read my messages with him I’m done. His family will hate me and I can go to jail.”

Prosecutors took the case to a grand jury and ultimately to juvenile court where they charged Michelle with manslaughter for encouraging the suicide. For the last two years her defense team has worked to have the charges dismissed arguing that Michelle was miles away from the death scene and that while her text messages were provocative they were protected speech under the First Amendment. Their final attempt failed.

Carter in Court With Her Attorney

A Smirking Carter in Early Court Appearance With Her Attorney

In its definitive ruling the Massachusetts Supreme Court concluded, “Although not physically present when the victim committed suicide, the constant communication with him by text messages and by telephone leading up to and during the suicide made the defendants presence at least virtual.”

Later this month Michelle, now 19 and out on bail, is expected to enter a plea at her first pretrial hearing.

This case is full of “what if’s” and “if only’s”. What if Michelle had warned Conrad’s parents about his state of mind? If only she had hung up with him and called the police.

The case is also full of important life lessons for young people. Chief among them, how bad judgment, exercised over a relatively short period of time, can ruin –– and even take –– a life.

It is clear we’ve lost the art of meaningful face-to-face conversation. It has been buried by the Internet, social media and the ever present tapping sound of keyboards. That laser focus so many people have on their computer screen these days can supplant common sense.

When a person speaks of suicide it is not time to text a response. It is time to speak with the loved ones to whom the person may not be fully confiding. It is time to get that person some serious mental health help.

Why didn’t Michelle Carter understand this? How many other young people might do the same thing? Have a conversation with your kids, please.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 9:33 am

Noozhawk reader Originalist writes:

“Bad judgement?! This Michelle person is a sociopath! That’s not “bad judgement,” that’s psychological impairment! She needs a psych evaluation and to be locked away until deemed safe for the public!”

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Sharon July 18, 2016 at 10:18 am

Truth!

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 11:54 am

Facebook Friend Pat Kelley Wittorf writes:

Oh, Diane, … talk to our kids about their tests? How about talking to them about having some compassion? How about explaining that someone who talks constantly about committing suicide is deeply troubled and needs HELP! How about talking to them about their responsibility to report such conversations to the person’s parents, a teacher, even law enforcement?!”

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 11:58 am

Facebook Friend Joya Colucci Lord writes:

“The electronic version of telling someone to JUMP! Inexcusable. Nobody wants to be held accountable any more. Nobody wants to assume responsibility for their actions. Social media and texting have dissolved the human-to-human aspect of communication and reduced us to 140-character anonymity. We need to ask ourselves and our children if we would speak to each other face-to-face (or even on the phone) with such callousness, rudeness, arrogance, and ugliness. And we do need to teach our kids (and maybe ourselves) to have a bit of compassion for those who are struggling with the invisible demons of mental health.”

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 11:58 am

Facebook Friend Nancy Robel writes:

“I agree wholeheartedly with this, Diane. That young girl should be prosecuted. Young, stupid and pretty cold blooded. None of my kids would have responded the way she did. They would have told someone, who could have helped.”

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 11:59 am

Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich writes:

“Sorry, but if the girl had ANYTHING at ALL to do with the suicide, she SHOULD be held responsible for her actions……
TEXTING somebody to do something like that is NO DIFFERENT than if you were there in PERSON & told them to do it………
If this kid was THAT messed up that he talked about suicide THAT MUCH, that girl should have told SOMEBODY…Parents, police, school administrators….SOMEBODY……”

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Facebook Friend Robert B. Reno writes:

“This one of those cases that really make you think. Is she guilty or not? Is goading someone the same as pulling the trigger? If he was cognizant of the consequences of his actions and went through with them anyway would it make any difference what anyone else said?”

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Diane Dimond July 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Facebook Friend Natalie Fido-Kennedy writes:

“It’s a troubling case. If she knew about his mental anguish with mental illness as it appears she did and encourage him to end his life she should be held accountable . If she wanted to rid herself of him permanently having him end his life is a tragedy. her pleading I didnt think he was serious would hold as much water as a bucket full of holes .. May his family try and find peace may this young man also find peace in his next spiritual journey . May this young lady realize her actions or inactions caused the death of someone who loved her and may her consequences be just.”

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Diane Dimond July 19, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Facebook Friend Sarah Page Kyrcz writes:

“WOW! You have to wonder which one had the most mental issues! Really, really scary.”

Reply

Diane Dimond July 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Facebook Friend Sandi Chaykin Teller writes:

“This case has made me ill from day one and this girl is a psychopath and needs to be locked up.”

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Diane Dimond July 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Facebook Friend Drew Rutberg writes:

“I’m not sure about the law on this? I don’t know if she had any legal responsibly to assist him. I do know she is morally reprehensible and any tears she sheds are not for him but her own legal situation. I’d venture to guess beyond the speech she’ll give fur leniency she really still has no concept of what she did wrong.”

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Keith Raymond January 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm

It is easy to sit behind a screen and type whatever you want. There has to be a time where there’s consequences for one’s actions. I disagree that she did not know what she was doing.

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