Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Words Can Also Kill

Limiting Criminal Liability for Words

In June 2016, Michelle Carter was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a Massachusetts juvenile court for the death of her eighteen-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Carter’s involvement in the suicidal death constituted discussions with Roy on how to carry out the act, contemporaneous text messages encouraging Roy to carry out the suicide attempt, and the failure to contact his family or authorities. This Note focuses on the legal effects of Carter’s involuntary manslaughter conviction. It highlights the First Amendment free speech implications that result from Carter’s words being construed as an “overt act” for the purpose of an involuntary manslaughter prosecution. Additionally, it examines and analyzes how the current state of Massachusetts’s criminal law allows for a conviction of a defendant such as Carter. Finally, it recommends that the Massachusetts legislature take steps in legislating “assisted suicide.”

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.