BOSTON (AP) — A bill filed at the Massachusetts Statehouse would set new penalties for those who encourage others to die by suicide.
The bill is a reaction to the case of Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman sentenced to 15 months in jail after she was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for using text messages and phone calls to encourage her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to kill himself in 2014.
The legislation would set a maximum sentence of five years in prison for anyone who “intentionally coerces or encourages” another individual to die by suicide or attempt to die by suicide by using physical acts or mental coercion that manipulate a person’s “fears, affections or sympathies.”
State Sen. Barry Finegold told The Salem News that Massachusetts is among a handful of states without a law criminalizing the act of suicide by coercion.
“Most other states already have made it illegal to encourage or provide the resources for someone else to commit suicide,” the Andover Democrat said. “The tragic death of Conrad Roy made it clear that Massachusetts is not equipped to deal with scenarios like this.”
Finegold filed a similar bill in the last session.
He said the legislation would send “a clear message that coercing another person to commit suicide is not only unacceptable, but subject to criminal liability.”
Conrad Roy’s mother, Lynn Roy, helped write the bill that is named after her son.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Carter’s conviction appeal. Prosecutors say Carter caused her boyfriend’s 2014 death when she told him in a phone call to get back into his carbon monoxide-filled truck.
Carter was released from jail in 2020 after serving most of a 15-month sentence at the Bristol County jail in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The 23-year-old got out more than three months early for good behavior. She will be on probation until 2022.
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