The Involuntary Manslaughter conviction 6 weeks ago of Michelle Carter, in the texting-suicide death of Conrad Roy III, has generated international attention. I’ve written previously in my Massachusetts criminal law blog about why I believe this conviction was sound and supported by both the law and the facts. I’m writing this post today in my Massachusetts Injury Law blog, because a twist has developed in this, involving civil law, not criminal.
Yesterday, a Sentencing Hearing was held before the judge who found her guilty in June of Involuntary Manslaughter in this case, Massachusetts Juvenile Court judge Lawrence Moniz. I joined host Aaron Keller at Dan Abrams’ LawNewz broadcast yesterday for over two hours of live analysis to examine and discuss Carter’s conviction in this case, and the sentence she received yesterday from Judge Moniz. That criminal sentence was especially lenient, but did not surprise me.
Some background on sentencing issues, first. The relevant statute in Massachusetts provides for a maximum of 20 years’ incarceration upon a conviction of Involuntary Manslaughter. The prosecution (Bristol County District Attorney’s Office) asked for a range of 7 to 12 years’ incarceration – in state prison. Carter’s defense attorney asked the judge to impose no prison time at all, but instead only five years’ probation. Absent a statute that imposes mandatory minimum sentences upon a conviction, which removes all discretion from a judge, the judge retains discretion in sentencing, between the minimum and the maximum. Give that this case was in juvenile court, that range runs from no incarceration at all, to a maximum of 20 years in a state prison.