Michelle Carter will begin serving her 15-month jail term on Monday, a year and a half after she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for urging her 18-year-old boyfriend through text messages and phone calls to kill himself.
A Massachusetts trial judge on Monday ruled that Carter, 22, will begin serving her sentence hours after the state's highest court — the Supreme Judicial Court — denied her lawyer's motion to extend the stay on her sentence.
Carter was taken into custody at the Bristol County Juvenile Court immediately after Judge Lawrence Moniz allowed the prosecution's motion to revoke the stay on her jail sentence. She will serve her sentence at the Bristol County House of Corrections.
Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail in August 2017, two months after she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Conrad Roy's suicide. However, Moniz had allowed her to remain free until she finished her appeals in state court.
Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court refused to overturn her conviction, ruling that the evidence against Carter proved that "by her wanton or reckless conduct she caused the victim's death by suicide."
Carter's attorneys filed an emergency motion on Monday, asking the high court to extend the stay on her jail sentence pending an appeal to the US Supreme Court to review her case. That motion was denied.
When Carter was 17, she sent Roy a series of texts over two weeks encouraging him to kill himself. Roy — who had a history of mental illness and had previously made attempts on his own life — killed himself July 12, 2014, by inhaling carbon monoxide in his truck parked outside a Kmart in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Carter was 50 miles away in her Plainville home, but spoke to Roy twice over the phone. During one of the phone calls, Roy got out of the truck because he was "scared," but Carter told him to "get back in" moments before his death, according to Bristol County prosecutors.
Moniz found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Roy's death, concluding that her actions constituted "wanton and reckless conduct" when she failed to call for help after instructing Roy to get back in his truck despite knowing it was a toxic environment "inconsistent with human life."
Carter's attorney, Daniel Marx, told BuzzFeed News on Monday that they were disappointed with Moniz's decision to revoke the stay on Carter's jail sentence, but vowed to continue to fight her appeal while she served out her sentence.
Marx added that Carter knew there was a "high likelihood" that she was going to jail on Monday, and that it was a "difficult day" for her and her family.
Her attorneys have 90 days from the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling to ask the US Supreme Court to review Carter's case. Their appeal to the high court will likely focus on two federal constitutional issues — that of free speech and due process, Marx said.
The Supreme Judicial Court found that Carter's speech of encouraging suicide was not protected by the First Amendment. Her legal team believes that the court's interpretation is "at odds" with the decisions of other state supreme courts who have applied the principle of free speech to assisted or encouraged suicide cases.
Her lawyers cited a recent decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court in a suicide case, which held that "speech in support of suicide, however distasteful, is an expression of a viewpoint on a matter of public concern," and that the speech is entitled to protection under the First Amendment.
Her lawyers have also argued that Carter's due process was violated because Massachusetts's common law of involuntary manslaughter was "arbitrarily" enforced to criminalize her words.
Federal constitutional law requires criminal law to have "objective and clear criteria" for determining who should be prosecuted and who should not, Marx said. Assisted suicide cases raise a lot of complicated questions, he said, and the courts need to decide "where the line is drawn between what constitutes killing someone and what constitutes helping someone end their life."
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.