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Should this teenager be held criminally responsible for her boyfriend’s suicide?

UPDATE:

A teen charged with manslaughter over the suicide of her boyfriend knew she could go to jail for pressuring him to take his own life, a court has heard.

Prosecutors said Michelle Carter, then 17, told 18-year-old Conrad Roy III to delete her text messages from his phone before he committed suicide, the Washington Post reports.

She allegedly texted a friend after her boyfriend’s death saying: “[If the police] read my messages with him I’m done. His family will hate me and I can go to jail.”

Mamamia previously reported:

His suicide was a tragic, tragic event. She allegedly coaxed him. But does that make her criminally responsible for his death?

In July last year, troubled teen Conrad Roy had second thoughts while attempting to take his own life.

He got out of the car he was gassing himself in and texted his girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, telling her he was afraid and didn’t want to leave his family.

She allegedly responded: “Get back in.”

He did.

teenager charged over boyfriends suicide
Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III. Image via Facebook.
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Now, she’s facing up to 20 years in jail after being charged with involuntary manslaughter, CBS reports.

But was it her fault?

Roy suffered from anxiety and had tried to commit suicide before. But it was the 1000-plus text messages allegedly sent by Ms Carter, a high school honours student, encouraging him to carry out his fatal plan that raised police suspicions that this was more than just a tragic suicide.

In the landmark case, Ms Carter – now 18 – is being prosecuted as an adult.

Police allege Ms Carter told Mr Roy: “You just gotta do it, babe. You can’t think about it.”

Some of her text messages allegedly said:

“You kept pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action. You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off. You just have to do it. Do you want to do it now?

It’s probably the best time now because everyone is sleeping. Just go somewhere in your truck and no one is really out there right now because it’s an awkward time. If you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it, and you can say you’ll do it tomorrow, but you probably won’t. Tonight? Love you.”

Police claim Ms Carter encouraged the suicide while attempting to get sympathy from her friends, allegedly telling them the teen was dead days before he took his own life, South Coast Today reports.

The same day, she reportedly texted him saying: “Let me know when you’re gonna do it.”

teenager charged over boyfriends suicide
Michelle Carter in court. Image via Facebook/South Coast Today.

Ms Carter’s lawyer says the teen, accused of coaxing Mr Roy into committing suicide, didn’t violate any existing law (Massachusetts is one of the few US states where ‘assisted suicide’ is not an offence).

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“There’s no law in Massa­chusetts that says you can’t encourage someone else to commit suicide, like there is in some other states,” he said.

“This is terrible tragedy – a young man taking his own life.

“They’re trying to claim there is manslaughter, when they freely admit the boy took his own life. You can’t have it both ways.”

teenager charged over boyfriends suicide
Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III. Image via Facebook.

But if the police assertions are true, should Ms Carter be held criminally responsible for the death of the 18-year-old?

Should a legal obligation be imposed on a person to prevent him or her from openly assisting a suicide? And should that onus apply to children?

Motivated by immaturity, or to seek attention or due to mental health issues or no reasons at all, many teenagers do stupid things. Many teenagers also encourage their friends to do stupid things. Although the consequences are not usually as dire, should inciting a friend to perform a risky or ill-advised act make that person just as responsible for it?

Or is dealing with peer pressure, wading through the strong influences of your friends to come to your own decision, just a part of growing up? She didn’t blackmail him. She didn’t threaten him. She did, allegedly, encourage him.

Was she taking advantage of a troubled and impressionable young man whose thinking was clearly compromised? Or did she believe she was doing the right thing by encouraging him to put himself out of the constant agony he felt?

The answers to these questions we may never know.

The only thing clear is that there could be more than one teen’s life destroyed by this tragedy.

If this post brings up issues for you, or you just need someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 131 114. You can also visit the Lifeline website here and the Beyond Blue website here.

Do you think she should be prosecuted?

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