TAUNTON, Mass. — A young woman who sent a barrage of text messages to another teenager urging him to kill himself was found guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in a case that many legal experts had expected to result in an acquittal.
The verdict, handed down by a judge in a nonjury trial, was a rare legal finding that, essentially, a person’s words alone can directly cause someone else’s suicide.
The judge, Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, said the conduct of the woman, Michelle Carter, toward Conrad Roy III was not only immoral but illegal. Ms. Carter, who faces up to 20 years in prison, will be sentenced on Aug. 3.
Ms. Carter was 17 in July 2014 when she encouraged Mr. Roy, 18, whom she called her boyfriend, to kill himself. On July 12, while she was miles away, he drove alone to a Kmart parking lot and hooked up a water pump that emitted carbon monoxide into the cab of his truck. When he became sick from the fumes and stepped out, prosecutors said, Ms. Carter ordered him by phone to “get back in.” He was found dead the next day.