Earlier this year Michelle Carter was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter because she urged her a guy to commit suicide. The guy was already suicidal but actually told Michelle that he was not going to do it. She responded to this by urging him to do it anyway.

Later she was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison with a bunch of clauses including a suspended amount of time and probation.

Is it constitutional to sentence a person to imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter who did not physically aid a person's suicide? Would these text messages not be protected under the first amendment and if not what are these messages classified as?

1 Answer 1


It is constitutional to imprison a person for committing a crime, though I suspect that a life sentence for brawling would be held to be cruel and unusual punishment. It's rather hard to tell what punishments will be held to be cruel and unusual, but 2.5 years for involuntary manslaughter is not unusual.

The crime of involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts does not require any physical aiding. It is

unlawful killing unintentionally caused by wanton and reckless conduct... Wanton and reckless conduct is intentional conduct that created a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another person.... It is conduct involving a grave risk of harm to another that a person undertakes with indifference to or disregard of the consequences of such conduct Whether conduct is wanton and reckless depends either on what the defendant knew or how a reasonable person would have acted knowing what the defendant knew

The First Amendment does not give one carte blanche to say anything you want. There are a number of crimes and torts which involve saying something: threatening and extortion, bribing, fraud, incitement to riot, disturbing the peace, defamation, perjury and lying to a government official, and so on.

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