Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman who as a teen encouraged her boyfriend via text messages to kill himself, was released early from prison on Thursday.
Carter, now 23, was released from the women’s center at the Bristol County House of Corrections after serving only around 11 months of her 15-month prison sentence. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for the death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy in a headline-grabbing case that caught the world's attention.
Carter earned enough “good time” to be released early, Jonathan Darling, a spokesperson for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.
Inmates in Massachusetts jails can earn up to 10 days off their sentence every month for attending programs, having a job inside the jail, and staying out of trouble, according to Darling.
“Ms. Carter has been a model inmate in Bristol County,” Darling said in the statement. “She has attended programs, had a job inside the jail, has been polite to our staff and volunteers, has gotten along with other inmates, and we’ve had no discipline issues with her whatsoever.”
Carter’s job was serving food in the "chow hall" in the women’s jail, Darling told BuzzFeed News.
On Thursday morning, two officers carrying Carter's belongings escorted her to a waiting car. She now has five years of probation.
After her release, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said at a press conference that Carter "integrated very, very well" in the women's center by "being busy and involved with the various programs" offered to inmates.
What was "very revealing," Hodgson said, was that Carter was interested in getting into as many programs inside the jail as she possibly could.
"One of the thing she liked doing was gardening," he said.
However, Hodgson added that he "really feels for the Roy family and what they must be going through."
"It's a very, very sad case," he said.
After her release, Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, told BuzzFeed News that he "was very pleased she is home."
He said, "Future legal plans will be announced in due course."
Carter’s release comes a week after the US Supreme Court rejected her appeal to hear the case and to vacate her conviction.
Her lawyers had argued that her conviction was “unprecedented” and violated her First Amendment right to free speech and her Fifth Amendment right to due process. “Michelle Carter did not cause Conrad Roy’s tragic death and should not be held criminally responsible for his suicide,” her attorney, Daniel Marx, had said last year.
Massachusetts is the only state to have upheld the conviction of a “physically absent defendant who encouraged another person to commit suicide with words alone,” Carter’s petition said.
In February 2012, Carter, and Roy began a long-distance relationship through texts and phone calls. In 2014, Carter, who was 17 at the time, sent Roy a series of text messages over a two-week period encouraging him to kill himself and berating him whenever he expressed hesitation, prosecutors said during her trial.
Carter asked Roy when he was going to kill himself more than 40 times, prosecutors said.
“If u don’t do it now, you’re never gonna do it,” Carter wrote in one text to Roy.
“People who commit suicide don’t think this much. They just do it,” she said in another text.
Roy — who had a history of mental illness and had previously tried to kill himself — died by suicide in his truck outside a Kmart in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, on July 12, 2014.
Carter was 50 miles away in her Plainville home but spoke to Roy twice over the phone for more than 80 minutes before his death. While there are no records of what they discussed, prosecutors relied primarily on a text message Carter sent one of her friends months after Roy’s death.
In the message to Samantha Boardman, Carter said, “Sam his death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in.”
“Sam because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldnt have him live the way he was living anymore I couldnt do it I wouldnt let him,” a part of the text said.
The trial judge based his guilty verdict on this text message, saying that Carter not only forced Roy “to get back in” his truck, but she also failed to call for help despite knowing it was a toxic environment “inconsistent with human life.”
During the trial, Carter’s lawyers argued that she was a troubled teenager dealing with her own mental health issues and had been taking antidepressants when Roy died. They also pointed to the attempts Carter had made to get Roy to seek help for his mental health issues.
Prosecutors painted Carter as an attention-seeking teen who used her young and vulnerable boyfriend as a “pawn in her sick game of life and death.” They told the court that she wanted to play the role of a “grieving girlfriend to get the sympathy and attention she craves."
The trial judge, Lawrence Moniz, convicted Carter of involuntary manslaughter in June 2017 and sentenced her to two and a half years in prison with 15 months served and the rest suspended. However, Moniz allowed Carter to remain free until all her state appeals were exhausted.
Carter began serving her prison sentence last February after Massachusetts’ highest court refused to overturn her conviction.
Carter was denied parole after seeking early release from prison last September.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.