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Is Michelle Carter in Jail?
In June 2017, Michelle Carter was convicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of her boyfriend Conrad Roy III—though Roy had taken his own life. Three years earlier, the 18-year-old died by suicide after poisoning himself with carbon monoxide in his truck. Later, text messages between the two revealed that the then-17-year-old Michelle had repeatedly urged Roy to commit suicide, despite the depressed teen’s own doubts.
The case, and the issues it raised of mental health and teenage relationships in the digital age, became national news. Now, they’re the subject of a new two-part documentary, I Love You, Now Die, which airs on HBO Tuesday and Wednesday. Directed by Erin Lee Carr, who directed HBO docs Mommy Dead and Dearest and At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, the film offers an in-depth look at Carter’s manslaughter trial. Here’s a refresher on the story, and what happened after the conviction.
Who is Michelle Carter?
Though both Carter and Roy were from small towns in Massachusetts, the two teenagers met while visiting relatives in Florida in 2012. Though they’d only meet face to face five times, the pair developed an intense long-distance relationship, largely carried out via text message.
The teenagers both had histories of mental health struggles, and had been prescribed antidepressants. Carter had battled with an eating disorder, and Roy had attempted to end his life prior to his ultimate successful attempt. Theirs was a toxic, largely digital romance, though at first Carter urged Roy to seek treatment for his depression and anxiety. “The mental hospital would help you,” Carter texted Roy in June 2014. “I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life.”
But in just a few weeks, Carter was sending Roy very different messages. “I’ll stay up with you if you want to [commit suicide] tonight,” she offered on July 8. When Roy responded that “another day wouldn’t hurt,” Carter hectored him. “You can’t keep pushing it off, tho, that’s all you keep doing,” she replied. In the hours before he died, Carter continued to urge Roy to take his life, even as he continued to express doubts.
Michelle Carter arrived to court in June 2017 to learn the verdict in her bench trial.
Boston GlobeGetty Images
The two were on the phone together during Roy’s final moments, and Carter would later tell a friend that he had at one point left his carbon-monoxide filled car, and that she had told him to get back inside. This was what juvenile court Judge Lawrence Moniz found decisive during Carter’s bench trial—the judge ruled that though Roy may have attempted to take his life even without Carter’s influence, he would have left his truck and abandoned the attempt had not Carter, per her text to friends, ordered him back inside.
What happened after trial?
Though Judge Moniz sentenced Carter to 15 months in prison, he allowed her sentence to be suspended until her state-level appeals were exhausted.
In February of this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court announced its decision in Carter’s appeal. Among the points Carter’s lawyers argued was that her conviction violated her First Amendment-protected right to free speech. But the higher court found that the definition of involuntary manslaughter—“reckless or wanton conduct causing the death of another”—doesn’t exclude Carter’s texts. “The defendant cannot escape liability just because she happened to use “words to carry out [her] illegal [act],” the court noted. “Although numerous crimes can be committed verbally, they are “intuitively and correctly” understood not to raise First Amendment concerns.”
“The evidence against the defendant proved that, by her wanton or reckless conduct,” the justices ruled, “she caused the victim’s death by suicide.” After the the ruling was handed down, Carter was ordered to begin her prison sentence.
Where is Carter Now?
Though Roy died when Carter was 17 and the case was adjudicated in juvenile court, she was 22 by the time she was ordered to prison and Carter is serving her sentence at the Bristol County House of Correction adult facility.
Bristol county Sheriff Thomas Hodgson (who, in 2017, offered to send inmates to help build Donald Trump’s border wall) told local reporters that Carter was “assimilating very well” to prison life, and described her as seeming “reserved and quiet.” She’s scheduled to be released next year.
Her legal team is still pursuing appeals—on Monday, they filed to appeal her conviction with the US Supreme Court.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.