The Legal Side Of The Michelle Carter Involuntary Manslaughter Texting Case

Michelle Carter was the young lady who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending text messages to her boyfriend encouraging him to commit suicide. Episode 001

The Story

Michelle Carter was arrested and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Her crime was sending text messages to her boyfriend who then killed himself. The prosecution believed she sent those messages recklessly knowing there was a high probability her suicidal boyfriend would kill himself.


This all just begs the question:

Can You Be Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter Simply By Texting?


Usually, the law on ciminal accountaibliyt is the reason why people get caught up in crimes where they are not the ones who do the did. Here, she didn’t kill her boyfriend. He killed himself.

For example, in a recent Illinois case a man was convicted of delivering a controlled substance when all he did was help someone else find a person who would sell to her.


In order for a defendant to be convicted under an accountability theory, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she

(1) solicited, aided, abetted, agreed, or attempted to aid another person in the planning or the commission of the offense;
(2) did so before or during the commission of the offense; and
(3) did so with the concurrent, specific intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the offense.

720 ILCS 5/5-2(c).

A defendant may be found guilty on an accountability theory if the State establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant shared the criminal intent of the principal or that there was a common design or scheme.

Accountability focuses on the degree of culpability of the offender and seeks to deter persons from intentionally aiding or encouraging the commission of offenses.

But the funny thing, is that this was NOT an accountability case.

She was the main and principal actor in this killing.

The Murder Statute

Murder is generally defined as a killing where a person performs acts and,

“in performing the acts which cause the death: (1) he either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or (2) he knows that such act create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another.”

See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1)&(2).

She probably could have been charged with first degree murder.

Involuntary Manslaughter Statute

With an involuntary manslaughter statute a conviction can be sustained with less criminal intent.

Now the law says,

“A person who unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification commits involuntary manslaughter if his acts whether lawful or unlawful which cause the death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and he performs them recklessly…”

See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(a).

They went with this one either because they didn’t think they could prove murder or they actually just felt this was all she deserved.

See Also…

Professor Beckett’s comments on trial publicity.


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