Today Michelle Carter was released 3 months early from her 15 month sentence after being convicted of manslaughter after urging her boyfriend Conrad Roy III to kill himself. Most of us have read the texts online and know he was expressing doubt, but 17-year-old Michelle told him to “get back in” his truck as it was filling with fumes and making him groggy and gasp for air. Did she put the fumes in there? No, but she may has well have. And it didn’t end there. Then she did whatever it took to get the maximum amount of sympathy from her limited amount of friends, her family, his family, and basically anyone who would listen. And that was the motive: getting people to listen. Getting people to look. Getting people to think of her and feel something. What I feel is mad. I’m mad that this entitled little girl put getting likes and sympathetic conversation over another human’s life. I’m mad at the lack of justice for Conrad who didn’t get to just spend 12 months in hell and then walk out to change his hair or name and start over, which I’m sure she will.
But today on the internet, I was surprised that not everyone was mad. In a medium that is notoriously harsh and hard on people, there was a lot of sympathy for Michelle that I was just missing. Words were thrown around like “depression,” “troubled” and a lot of talk about how she needed psychiatric help, not prison. I don’t pretend that I can diagnose Michelle Carter, but given the fact that she hasn’t expressed much remorse and tried to appeal the conviction despite her texts going viral, “sociopath” seems reasonable. But given who I am, I still wanted to understand and therefore tried to put myself in her shoes. I thought about teenage Jaime, and how at times, she too desperately wanted attention, was also dramatic, at times depressed, and had a confusing relationship with a boy that didn’t always make sense. Could teenage Jaime have done anything resembling this? Given who raised me, there’s no way. Looking at the man I love, even if things did go south… someone would miss him terribly. And Conrad’s family does miss him terribly and what I can’t imagine is losing someone I loved in this unnecessary and tragic way at the hands of someone who’d sat at my dinner table and who my loved one trusted with his feelings and problems. She betrayed him, and even though I suspect she has no feelings about that, I still ask myself: Does she miss him?
Maybe the more important question is: What do we do now? Michelle is out walking among us and for the next 5 years, the only person who legally needs to know here whereabouts, is her parole officer. The bottom line is that many people feel like although she served her time, she still hasn’t accepted responsibility for the crime. So what now? As far as I’m concerned, it is now our responsibility to make sure she doesn’t get to slink away and move on when Conrad cannot. Maybe that seems harsh, but it’s how I feel. I’m mad. My hope is that she has to live a life of discomfort and paranoia. That every time she walks into a room with new people, she worries about who is recognizing her and if the whispers are about her and the cruel crime she committed as a teenager. Every time she sits down to have a drink at a bar while wallowing, I hope her fellow drinkers turn their stools and remind her that they know who she is and haven’t forgotten Conrad Roy.
But is that fair? C’mon Jaime! Her frontal lobe wasn’t formed! She didn’t have enough friends and was depressed! I don’t care. She encouraged someone to take his own life, and I’m mad.