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Attorneys for Michelle Carter ask US Supreme Court to review her conviction in suicide case

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 7/8/2019 Danny McDonald
a person posing for the camera: Michelle Carter. © AP via Bristol County Sheriff’s Office Michelle Carter.

Lawyers for Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for pressuring a troubled Massachusetts teenager though texts and phone calls into killing himself, are petitioning the US Supreme Court to review the case.

The lawyers filed the motion with the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking a review on First Amendment grounds. Her communications with Conrad Roy III, the teenager who took his own life, “did not constitute speech that was ‘an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute,’ ” they wrote.

The motion also questioned whether Carter’s conviction violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment “because in assisted or encouraged suicide cases, the common law of involuntary manslaughter fails to provide reasonably clear guidelines to prevent ‘arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.’ ”

In a statement, Carter’s lawyers said her conviction should not stand. She did not cause Roy’s “tragic death and should not be held criminally responsible for his suicide,” said Daniel Marx, an attorney who represents Carter.

“This petition focuses on just two of the many flaws in the case against her that raise important federal constitutional issues for the US Supreme Court to decide,” he said. “First, charging Ms. Carter based on her words alone violated the First Amendment and the decision upholding her conviction created a conflict among state supreme courts. Second, her conviction violated due process because the vague common law of involuntary manslaughter fails to provide guidance to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement in morally fraught cases involving suicide.”

Carter was 17 when she urged Roy, a Mattapoisett resident, to kill himself in July 2014 — even after he told her he was too scared to go through with it. After a bench trial that drew national headlines, Judge Lawrence Moniz in June 2017 found Carter, of Plainville, guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

It was Carter’s command during their last conversation, that Roy return to his truck — then filled with deadly fumes — and her subsequent failure to act that rose to the level of criminal behavior, Moniz ruled.

Moniz sentenced Carter to serve 15 months behind bars, a term that was stayed while her appeal was pending. In February, the state Supreme Judicial Court upheld Carter’s conviction and sentence, ruling that she acted with criminal intent when she “badgered” Roy into taking his own life.

Days after the ruling, Carter was ordered to begin serving her sentence.

Her legal team had until Monday to file the motion with the Supreme Court.

The filing came the day before an HBO documentary on Carter is scheduled to air. The documentary, titled “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter,” will air in two installments on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Travis Andersen of Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.

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