- Michelle Carter, the Massachusets woman who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself in text messages and phone calls, has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.
- Her legal team argues that her conviction violated her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
- According to the filing, Massachusetts is the only state to have upheld the conviction of a “physically absent defendant who encouraged another person to commit suicide with words alone.”
Supreme Court Appeal Filed
Lawyers for Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman who was convicted last year for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself in text messages and phone calls, are asking the United States Supreme Court to review her case.
The 22-year-old’s legal team filed a petition on Monday, asking the Court to consider, “the questions whether Carter’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter violated the U.S. Constitution.”
In the filing, Carter’s attorneys claim her conviction did so by violating her First Amendment right to freedom of speech and Fifth Amendment right to due process.
The Death of Conrad Roy III
In 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III poisoned himself with carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. After his death, investigators discovered that he had exchanged several text messages and phone calls with Carter, his then 17-year-old girlfriend, as he contemplated and attempted suicide.
Messages showed that Carter encouraging him to do it. “I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way,” one of several text messages to Roy read.
Carter even suggested ways for Roy to commit suicide. “Drink bleach. Why don’t you just drink bleach?” she asked in other messages found by investigators. “Hang yourself. Jump over a building, stab yourself, idk. There’s a lot of ways.”
According to prosecutors, Roy stepped out of his car as it filled with toxic fumes when he had second thoughts about what he was doing. Then Carter instructed him to return to the car.
In 2017, Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her part in Roy’s death. Judge Lawrence Moniz of Bristol County said Carter’s “virtual presence” made her responsible for his death and she was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Her attorneys appealed the decision, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld her conviction in February. The court said it, “rejected the defendant’s claim that her words to the victim, without any physical act on her part and even without her physical presence at the scene, could not constitute wanton or reckless conduct sufficient to support a charge of manslaughter.”
Carter was then required to begin serving her sentence following the verdict.
Free Speech & Due Process Arguments
“Michelle Carter did not cause Conrad Roy’s tragic death and should not be held criminally responsible for his suicide,” said attorney Daniel Marx of Fick & Marx LLP.
“This petition focuses on just two of the many flaws in the case against her that raise important federal constitutional issues for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.”
In their filing to the Supreme Court, Carter’s legal team says her conviction was “based on words alone” and violated her First Amendment right to free speech. They argue that Carter’s communications with Roy, “did not constitute speech that was ‘an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute.’”
The team goes on to say that her case shows an “urgent need” for the Supreme Court to clarify “that narrow category of unprotected speech.”
Along with this, Carter’s lawyers also claim that the conviction was an arbitrary enforcement of assisted suicide laws that violated her right to due process. “As applied to assist or encouraging suicide with words alone, the common law on involuntary manslaughter violates due process because neither Carter nor any prior precedent has established meaningful guidance to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”
According to the filing, Massachusetts is the only state to have upheld the conviction of a “physically absent defendant who encouraged another person to commit suicide with words alone.”
“Before this case, no state had interpreted its common law or enacted an assisted suicide statute to criminalize such “pure speech,” and no other defendant had been convicted for encouraging another person to take his own life where the defendant neither provided the actual means of death nor physically participated in the suicide,” the filing states.
Monday was the last day for Carter to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, but it is unclear if the Court will take the case.
The filing came the day before an HBO documentary on Carter titled “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter.” The documentary, which first premiered at this year’s South by Southwest Festival, will air in two installments on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.
See what others are saying: (Fox News) (The Boston Globe) (The Washington Post)
Pittsburgh Church Runs Out of Money During Gun Buyback
- Within the first hour of their gun buyback program on Monday, a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ran out of money.
- The church raised $5,100 to pay individuals up to $100 per firearm. An estimated 146 guns were handed in.
- The buyback took place two months after the community was rocked by a fatal double shooting that occurred right outside the church’s doors.
- The event was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence.
A gun buyback hosted by a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Monday received such a large response from the community that they ran out of money within the first hour.
The Church of the Holy Cross ran the program in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and accomplishments were recognized in the form of a national holiday on Monday.
“In the first 45 minutes, we actually ran out of money,” Sylvia Wilson, the church’s senior warden, told CNN. “Some people were just bringing the guns in and they didn’t want the money. They just wanted to get the guns out of their homes.”
The church told CNN that $5,100 was raised by parishioners and other affiliate churches to buy back any firearms that people brought in. Individuals who participated received $50 or $100, depending on the type of gun. When the money ran out, the church posted a sign on their door.
“The Gun Buyback response has been overwhelming,” the sign read. “Thank you. We have run out of cash for this buyback. Sorry to turn so many away.”
“You can still turn in guns though,” the sign said at the bottom.
Wilson told CNN that even after the money had run out, people were coming to the church to turn in their guns. Other community members donated an additional $1,000 toward the buyback.
At least 146 guns were handed in overall, according to Rich Creehan, director of external relations for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh who spoke to CNN. Wilson said that the church was only expecting about 100.
Striving for Non-Violence
The buyback program came just a few months after a double fatal shooting occurred right outside the Church of the Holy Cross.
“In early November, on this very corner where this church sits, there was a double homicide involving relatives who attended this church and participated in our summer program,” Dr. Leon Haley with the Church of the Holy Cross said at a press conference last week.
“And so having this gun buyback at this church, which sits in a community disproportionately affected by gun violence, is a statement of the moral and humanitarian values we espouse,” he added.
This incident, tied with the desire to honor Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence, is what prompted the church to hold the gun buyback.
On the same day, a very different event took place several hundred miles away. In Richmond, Virginia, thousands congregated for a rally and Lobby Day to fight for their gun rights.
“We didn’t realize that in Virginia they would be marching today,” Wilson told CNN, referencing the Richmond demonstration. “We see that as dishonoring his legacy because they’re marching on this holiday representing him. It’s the total opposite of what we’re trying to do today.”
The organizers of the Richmond gun rights demonstration emphasized that their assembly was intended to be peaceful. Although Gov. Ralph Northam preemptively declared a state of emergency in the Capitol grounds of Richmond in fear of violence, the rally took place without a hitch.
Evelyn Yang, Andrew Yang’s Wife, Says Gynecologist Sexually Assaulted Her
- Evelyn Yang, the wife of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, went public with her sexual assault allegations against a New York gynecologist.
- Yang said Robert Hadden, who practiced through Columbia University, sexually abused her during a medical appointment when she was pregnant in 2012.
- After Yang and several other women’s allegations brought charges against Hadden, he pleaded guilty to two counts in 2016 and lost his medical license, but did not go to prison.
- Hadden and Columbia University are facing a lawsuit for abuse allegations and coverups, respectively, filed by at least two dozen women.
- Hadden has denied all allegations except the two counts he pleaded guilty to several years ago.
Evelyn Yang’s Story
Evelyn Yang, the spouse of 2020 presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, said she was sexually assaulted by a gynecologist who is also facing abuse allegations from more than two dozen other former patients.
In a CNN interview released Thursday, Yang publicly spoke for the first time about her alleged assault by Robert Hadden, a former medical professional with Columbia University.
Yang said she started seeing Hadden in 2012, when she was pregnant with her first child, and described the visits as routine at first. But she said eventually the gynecologist’s behavior grew more and more inappropriate.
The mother claimed the worst case of assault was when she was seven months pregnant.
“I was in the exam room and I was dressed and ready to go,” she told CNN. “And then, at the last minute, he kind of made up an excuse. He said something about ‘I think you might need a C-section’ and he proceeded to grab me over to him and undress me and examine me internally, ungloved.”
Yang revealed that she didn’t tell anyone about what happened for awhile — not even her husband — even though she knew what the doctor did was wrong. It wasn’t until months later, after she found out that another woman had reported a sexual assault by Hadden, that she told her spouse.
Legal Battles Against Robert Hadden
After telling her husband about what happened to her in the gynecologist’s office, Yang hired a lawyer and discovered that the Manhattan District Attorney had an open case against the doctor as several other women came forward with similar stories.
In early 2016, after agreeing to a plea deal that saw him admitting to two out of nine charges against him, Hadden was convicted of sex crimes. However, the charges Yang accused him of weren’t among them. In that deal, Hadden had to surrender his medical license and register as the lowest level sex offender, but he did not have to spend any time behind bars.
Yang was disappointed by the verdict and thought the punishment was not large enough for the crime.
“They said that the punishment was the same, regardless of how many counts he plead guilty to, that the punishment would’ve been the same, so it didn’t matter,” Yang said. “And I thought, well, it matters to me.”
“The DA’s office is meant to protect us, is meant to serve justice,” she added. “And there was no justice here.”
Now, there are at least 30 women that now accuse Hadden of sexual assault. The majority of them, Yang included, are part of a civil suit against Columbia University, its affiliates, and Hadden.
The lawsuit claims that the university “concealed Robert Hadden’s abuse for decades” and continued to allow his access to patients.
Hadden has denied all allegations against him, save for the two counts he pleaded guilty to prior to his 2016 conviction.
Justification for Going Public Now
Yang chose to bring her story into the public eye now because she felt empowered by the people she met as she accompanied her husband along his campaign trail.
“Meeting people and seeing the difference that we’ve been making already has moved me to share my own story about it, about sexual assault,” Yang said.
After the CNN interview came out, Andrew Yang posted support for his wife on his Twitter page.
“I’m so proud of Evelyn for sharing her story on behalf of so many women who have had similar experiences, most of whom will never have the same opportunity,” he wrote. “She is the source of strength for our family and she demonstrates it every day.”
I’m so proud of Evelyn for sharing her story on behalf of so many women who have had similar experiences, most of whom will never have the same opportunity. She is the source of strength for our family and she demonstrates it every day.— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) January 17, 2020
In her interview, Evelyn also expressed wanting to use her unique position to speak up about these issues.
“My experience with the sexual assault… is such a powerful and upsetting example of the truth that women are living with every day,” she said. “And I just happen to be able to have a platform to talk about it. I need to use that voice.”
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (CNN) (BBC)
Virginia Governor Declares State of Emergency Prior to Pro-Gun Rally
- The governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday ahead of a pro-gun rights demonstration next week, banning firearms from the Capitol grounds of Richmond for several days.
- Gov. Ralph Northam warned of “credible threats” from outside groups that are planning to disrupt the assembly with violence.
- The demonstration, organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, is scheduled to take place Monday, Jan. 20 on the state’s Capitol grounds.
- Lobbyists plan to protest gun control bills that are being pushed by the state’s government, which Democrats have recently taken control of for the first time in a generation.
State of Emergency Declared
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a temporary state of emergency on Wednesday in preparation for the pro-gun rights rally set to take place in the capital early next week.
“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday,” Northam said at a press conference. “This includes out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.”
“They are not coming to peacefully protest,” he added. “They are coming to intimidate and to cause harm.”
In preparation for this possibility, Northam released an executive order detailing the state of emergency that will be set in place from Friday evening until Tuesday evening. Throughout this stretch of time, firearms and other weapons will be prohibited from the Capitol grounds in Richmond.
Northam said that state intelligence analysts have identified rhetoric and threats similar to what was seen prior to the 2017 deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one person dead directly from the violence and dozens more injured.
“No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017,” Northam said. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here.”
The rally that Northam is preparing for is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and will take place on Monday, Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Northam asked the organizers of Monday’s event to “disavow” any groups who threaten violence, according to NPR.
On their frequently-asked-questions page, the VCDL writes that their annual Lobby Day is intended to be a “peaceful event” and encourages attendees to disengage if faced with any kind of harassment.
The VCDL emphasizes the sole purpose of the demonstration is for gun rights supporters to protest gun control bills that are moving forward under a new slate of lawmakers.
Earlier this month, Democrats took over as the majority group in both houses of Virginia legislature, a dynamic that hasn’t been seen in over 25 years. Many of these lawmakers have pledged to support Gov. Northam’s proposed measures to regulate and restrict firearms.
Philip Van Cleave, the president of the pro-gun group, told CNN on Wednesday that he “doesn’t believe the governor has the right to ban weapons.”
Later on Monday, the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention will also be assembling at the capital for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day vigil to honor victims of gun violence. A coordinator for the vigil was advised to push back the start time to avoid the big crowds from the pro-gun rally, according to a local news outlet.