Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman who urged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages, has been released from jail early. On Thursday, she walked out of the Bristol County jail alongside corrections officers who were carrying clear garbage bags containing her belongings.
Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for encouraging her then-boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to die by suicide. In text messages she sent him in 2014, she told him to “get back in” a truck that was filled with toxic gas. At the time, Carter was 17 when her 18-year-old boyfriend was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning.
During the original sentencing, Carter faced up to 20 years in prison. Ultimately, she was sentenced to 15 months in jail and five years probation. Her trial garnered a lot of media attention due to the direct, insistent tone of her text messages. “The time is right and you are ready ... just do it babe,” Carter wrote in a text the day he died by suicide.
In yet another text, she came across as frustrated that Roy hadn’t acted yet. “You can’t think about it,” she wrote. “You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.”
Carter’s early release comes 10 days after the United States Supreme Court said it wouldn’t take up her appeal to overturn her conviction and less than a year after she received her 15-month sentence. According to NBC Boston, the Massachusetts Parole Board originally denied her request for an early release last September. However, she is now being released about three months early because of “good behavior,” including participating in Bible study and keeping a job in the prison kitchen.
The high-profile case was featured in a documentary, I Love You, Now Die, which premiered at SXSW and aired on HBO last year. The filmmaker, Erin Lee Carr, told Refinery29 that she had followed Carter’s story from the beginning.
“There was genuine franticness about the volume [of texts],” Carr said. “We had a record, in real time, of the degradation of two people’s mental state as primary evidence. As a documentary filmmaker, you can’t really get better than that because you knew at the time what people were thinking. I hope this film sparks debate about girlhood and mental illness and loneliness.”
Carter's suicide by text charge brought to light a conversation about technology and mental illness, and wasn't the only case with these types of charges in recent years. Another Massachusetts woman, Inyoung You, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter last November. Like Carter, she faces the charges for allegedly encouraging her boyfriend via text message to die by suicide. However, that case has proved to be more muddled than Carter’s, as new texts from the last conversation between You and her boyfriend appear to show that she actually attempted to discourage him from going through with it at the last minute.
Most recently, You’s defense team has accused the prosecution of asserting “many inaccuracies — even falsehoods,” according to the Boston Herald. You is set to next appear in court on Feb. 20 for a continuation of the pretrial hearing.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.