In July 2014, Conrad Roy III committed suicide by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide inside his truck. In June 2017, his 17-year-old girlfriend at the time, Michelle Carter, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging him to do it.Sceenshot/Facebook/People
Now, in the wake of the trial that saw Carter receive a more lenient sentence than Roy’s family pleaded for — 15 months served in prison as part of a two-and-a-half year sentence plus five years probation instead of the 20-year maximum penalty — Carter has found an unexpected ally:
At just 20 years old (Carter’s current age), the American college student was found guilty, twice, for the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, while studying abroad in Italy.Franco Origlia/Stringer/Getty Images
The trial became an international sensation, in part because of Italian prosecutors’ depiction of Knox as a “sex-crazed marijuana smoker” who dragged then-boyfriend, Rafael Sollecito, into a game of “rough sex” that ended in Kercher’s death.
In a final ruling on the matter, which saw Knox facing 28 years in an Italian prison, her conviction was eventually overturned by the country’s supreme court.
Now in a new opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Knox has spoken out against Carter’s sentencing and her portrayal by the media, claiming that the young girl — instead of being vilified — should be treated with compassion in spite of the awful circumstances. She wrote, in part:
It’s hard to feel sympathy for Carter, who was wrong to instruct Roy over the phone to get back into the truck in which he was poisoning himself with carbon monoxide. And because suicide is illegal, we can interpret her part in the final moments of Roy’s life as incitement to lawless action, or conspiracy to commit a crime.
But involuntary manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter is when a drunk driver crashes into another vehicle, when a gunman shoots at tin cans in his suburban backyard, when a carnival ride operator fails to ensure that all passengers are strapped in, and as a result an innocent person dies. Encouraging your boyfriend to follow through with his own death wish should not qualify. Carter may not be innocent in a moral or philosophical sense, but she was wrongfully convicted.
Knox wrote that she was all too familiar with the media’s portrayal of Carter as a “femme fatale,” having suffered that same characterization herself:
When I was on trial for murder in Italy, the media tried to paint me as a “femme fatale.” So it was with a sickening sense of déjà vu that I watched the prosecution attempt the same trick with Carter, whom they said coldly and calculatingly insinuated herself into Roy’s vulnerable consciousness. They held her accountable for failing as Roy’s caregiving companion. Instead of protecting Roy from himself, Carter coerced him to commit suicide against his better instincts.
Knox claimed Carter was “ill-equipped” to handle Roy’s emotional and mental needs as she herself suffered from her own demons — self-harm ideation, body dysmorphia, and social anxiety:
Each served as catalyst to the other’s mental illness, yes, but without calculation, without cruelty.
In the end, Knox wrote, Roy must be held accountable for his actions as well.
Conrad passed away two years ago today. Two incredibly difficult years for his family and friends to mourn the loss of…
Blaming Carter for the young man’s death, she insisted, simply creates another victim:
Roy made the mistake of seeking the advice and encouragement of another troubled adolescent. He confided his suicidal ideation in the wrong person; he wasn’t thinking clearly, but that was still his choice. Carter made bad choices of her own, terrible mistakes, as her defense attorney said, that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. By holding her accountable for Roy’s death, we increase the tally of victims in this case, we ignore the mental health factors that lead to suicide, and we learn nothing about how to prevent it. We also probably encourage further self-harm in Carter.
Knox admitted that throughout her harrowing ordeal she was plagued by suicidal thoughts, believing they were her last chance to “escape” in case things became intolerable. The only thing that prevented her from following through on her impulses, she wrote, was her own repulsion by the concept of taking her own life.
Knox acknowledged that while it’s difficult at this moment to feel compassion for Carter, it’s exactly what the young girl needs, as she ended her piece with this:
It’s hard to feel sympathy for Michelle Carter. It’s also hard to feel sympathy for drug addicts or to understand obsessively suicidal adolescents. Even so, we have to try. Just because it’s hard to feel sympathy and understanding, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right — and just — thing to do. Conrad Roy III needed our sympathy and our help and didn’t get it in time. Michelle Carter deserves the same sympathy and help now.
Sympathy was far from the minds of Roy’s family following Carter’s sentencing.
In an interview with ABC News, Roy’s aunt, Kim Bozzi, speaking on their behalf said the family wanted to see Carter escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs, calling the judge’s decision to allow her free on probation until her case is appealed “a slap in the face”:
“We just sat in this court room for three years for what? To watch her walk away? We expected her to get something. Something.”