According to a report by Boston.com, lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced an anti-sucicide coercion bill called “Conrad’s Law” last Wednesday (July 24). The bill proposes to criminlize suicide coercion with jail time for up to 5 years.
The bill was introduced in response to a suicide case from the 2014 death of Conrad Roy III. Conrad was 18-years old when he killed himself after being pressured by a 17-year-old girl named Michelle Carter.
Michelle Carter encouraged Conrad to kill himself through phone calls and text messages. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after the trial in 2017. She is currently serving her 15-month jail sentence for the crime.
What Does “Conrad’s Law” Entail?
According to the report by Boston.com, “Conrad’s Law” will “allow prosecutors to charge defendants who encourage, coerce, or manipulate another person into committing or attempting suicide, despite knowing that the victim previously thought about, considered, or tried to commit suicide.”
If the law passes, the statute will carry up to a five-year prison sentence. And, it will apply to cases where a person “intentionally provides the physical means, or knowledge of such means, to the other person” or “participates in a physical act” that encourages another person to commit or attempt suicide. However, to be liable for the new law, a defendant would need “substantial control or undue influence over the victim or must have manipulated the victim’s behavior through fraud or deceit” (“Conrad’s Law”).
This Type of Law is New for Massachusetts
Until this bill proposal, there have been no official suicide-related laws on the books in Massachusetts. Before “Conrad’s Law” was proposed, the state tried suicide cases under traditional manslaughter and homicide laws.
“There is no law in Massachusetts making it a crime to encourage someone, or even to persuade someone, to commit suicide. Yet, Ms. Carter has now been convicted of manslaughter, based on the prosecution’s theory that, as a 17-year-old girl, she literally killed Mr. Roy with her words. This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.” – Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts
What this means is that it is currently very difficult to convict a person of suicide coercion under existing Massachusetts and the United States law. And, that in it of itself, is why “Conrad’s Law” is being proposed.
“While the charge of involuntary manslaughter has been shown to fit in the most egregious of cases, it is important for Massachusetts to join with 40 [other] states across the country who have already passed suicide by coercion laws for those cases that do not rise to the level of manslaughter.” – Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III