Teen girl who texted friend to commit suicide must stand trial

Michelle Carter at a court hearing in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, last year. (credit: WPRI12)

Massachusetts' top court ruled Friday that a teenager may stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection to text messages she sent urging her friend to commit suicide.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said a local grand jury had enough probable cause to indict Michelle Carter in connection to the 2014 suicide of Carter Roy III, who was found dead about 50 miles south of Boston in a Fairhaven parking lot. Carter was 17 at the time of Roy's suicide, and she is accused of sending Roy several texts, including one saying "get back in" the day the 18-year-old teen took his own life via carbon monoxide fumes inside his truck.

The defendant's lawyers maintained that her texts were constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. The court, however, did not create a bright line rule on where free speech ends and criminality begins. Instead, the court ruled that a physical act of violence is not necessary to sustain involuntary manslaughter charges and that each case is "entirely fact specific."

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