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Attorney Joseph Cataldo talks to his client, Michelle Carter, before meeting at a side bar at the beginning of the court session at Taunton Juvenile Court in Taunton, Mass., on Monday, June 5, 2017. Carter is charged with manslaughter for sending her boyfriend text messages encouraging him to kill himself. (Photo: Faith Ninivaggi/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

Trial begins today for a woman charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide through text messages. Prosecutors say defendant Michelle Carter, 20, who was 17 at the time of her boyfriend’s death, sent multiple text messages to 18-year-old Conrad Roy III urging him to go through with the act that resulted in his death.

Roy was found dead in his pickup truck in Fairhaven, Massachusetts on July 13, 2014 from carbon monoxide poisoning, and a gasoline-operated water pump was discovered in the back seat of the truck, according to the Associated Press.

Text messages sent by Carter to Roy include “You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t,” and “All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting,” according to excerpts from public court documents published by Boston.com.

The excerpts also show Carter told Roy members of his family were “prepared” for him to die and would “get over it and move on,” explained the process of carbon monoxide poisoning with some detail (“If you emit 3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes you will die within a half hour. You lose consciousness with no pain.”) and suggested he suffocate or hang himself if the carbon monoxide did not work (“But next I’d try the bag or hanging. Hanging is painless and takes like a second if you do it right.”)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last year that Carter could be indicted, saying there was evidence suggesting Carter engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion” and that her directions to Roy were a “direct, causal link” to his death, according to the AP.

Carter’s defense argues that her messages constitute free speech protected by the First Amendment. They also argue that Carter did not cause Roy’s death, as he was depressed, had attempted suicide in the past and was determined to go through with the act.

Massachusetts does not have laws that criminalize assisted suicide, although 40 other states do, according to Boston.com. The penalty for manslaughter in Massachusetts is a prison sentence of up to 20 years or a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 2 1/2 years.

Carter’s defense attorney pushed last year for his client to be tried as a juvenile due to her age at the time of Roy’s death, but the court ruled that she be tried instead as a youthful offender, meaning she will be subject to adult penalties if convicted. Carter chose yesterday to waive her right to a jury trial and her case will be decided by a judge.

In addition to the series of text messages exchanged between Carter and Roy, who had known each other for about two years and whose relationship had been mostly through remote correspondence, prosecutors will also focus on a phone conversation they say Carter had with Roy while he was sitting in his truck as it filled with carbon monoxide. Prosecutors say a text Carter sent to another friend shows that at one point she told Roy to “get back in” his truck when he left out of fear.

A previous case involving a defendant who encouraged suicide was that of William Melchert-Dinkel, a Minnesota man who was convicted of aiding the suicides of an English man and a Canadian woman in 2011, the Guardian reported. Melchert-Dinkel encouraged the 2005 and 2008 suicides while posing as a woman online, and also entered into a false suicide pact with one of the victims.

He was sentenced to 360 days in jail, however, his convictions were overturned in 2014 when the Minnesota supreme court ruled that parts of the law that banned “encouraging” or “advising” suicide violated the First Amendment. He was convicted again under the revised law, but an appeals court later only upheld his conviction in the man’s death, saying he gave the man detailed instructions but not the woman.

Another ongoing case involving an involuntary manslaughter charge following a suicide is that of a former Missouri Dairy Queen manager who is accused of severely harassing a 17-year-old employee. The employee, Kenneth Suttner, fatally shot himself on Dec. 21, 2016, and an inquest sought by a coroner in the case concluded that harassment by the boy’s manager, Harley Branham, 21, was “the principal in the cause of death.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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