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Anti-bullying Practices in Criminal Prosecution


All actions and choices that people make have naturally matching consequences. It is nowadays easy to deny the impact of one’s actions, particularly when it is possible to take cover behind a keyboard. While in the past people had the moral obligation to admit their mistakes in a face-to-face setting, there is now protection from actual confrontation by technological devices such as computers and mobile phones. People are free to vigorously hurt others devoid of worrying concerning the manner in which their words and messages might influence them.

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With this form of socializing becoming commonplace, there is a strong urge for the prosecution of offenders. Anti-bullying operations have proceeded past only encouraging people to avoid mistreatment of their peers to the establishment of laws that result in the criminal prosecution of persons at the fault of issuing insults, harsh words, and threats (Chin 261). This paper seeks to establish whether Michelle Carter’s actions of sending intriguing text messages that resulted in the death of Roy should be considered a crime. Where there is unkindness in people’s relations, it is often a vice and not a crime.


Any person reading the messages sent by Carter could have a hard time defending her motive. For a person to knowingly and deliberately mess around with another who is in a fragile condition of mind, it is not only wrong but also wicked. Irrespective of the mistake, holding Carter accountable in a court of law for an action that depends on the decision of the deceased is not only unjust but also takes away the significance bestowed on personal accountability (Chin 264). Nevertheless, the failure to acknowledge that the action of Carter was ghastly would also be disregarding personal responsibility. This case has been contentious even amid the most ideologically unswerving.

The moment that something terrible occurs, there is usually a strong desire to get justice. However, if there is no clear criminal, the situation becomes intricate. In the case of Michelle Carter, it was easy for the family of Roy to cast the guilt on her instead of finding liability on their deceased son. Additionally, in attempting to find justice from a court of law, Roy’s family members cannot get a sufficient solution for the loss of their son. Punishing Carter by making her spend two decades in prison cannot benefit Roy’s family in any way. The knowledge of the situation in correctional facilities and the mistake made by Carter signify that she is not in need of such rehabilitation or incarceration (LaPalme 1444).

In its place, Carter will only waste her precious time in jail at the cost of taxpayers but she will also be exposed to harsher criminals, which may eventually worsen her character than she was before imprisonment. Apart from the minor solace that Roy’s family members may get from the incarceration of Carter, her cruel punishment would not equal the life of their son.

Considering the gravity of Carter’s mistakes and the reality that she did not directly take part in the death of Roy, it appears as though the best thing would have been for the family members to seek redress with the help of the law of tort in a civil court. If family members had resorted to tort law, they would still have found some solace and Carter’s actions would have been exposed to the world, possibly giving them the similitude of justice. Even though no amount of money may replace the loss of human life, if Carter had been held accountable in a court of law, she would have been directed to give legal payments and damages to Roy’s family.

This would have been a better alternative than incarcerating her and shifting the burden to taxpayers who have nothing to do with the death of Roy. Furthermore, Carter is sending of provocative messages and her failure to intervene with respect to discouraging Roy from terminating his life should not act as an appropriate basis for the long imprisonment of a youthful woman, which could ruin her entire existence.

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In the rest of Carter’s life, she will live wondering if her actions were the cause of Roy’s demise. Additionally, a quick look for her name on Google and other search engines will always generate an overabundance of derogatory articles that will destroy her reputation and influence her career negatively. Incarceration is not tantamount to justice but the opposite is usually true (Chin 261). To make it worse, Carter’s lawyers state that she is affected by depression and other mental disorders. By putting her out of the community, Carter might never get the treatment and assistance that she dearly requires. No reasonable justification would make Carter’s mistakes appear proper or suitable, but that does not signify that they are criminal or deserve the judgment she received.


The case of Carter provides global limelight to an issue that may be argued in diverse perspectives. Whether her actions are assessed through the common law of manslaughter or some statutory directives, the concern of promoting suicide is a distinctive legal issue of fast mounting significance. What transpired was an urge, possibly exacerbated by a change in public opinion, to inflict culpability on an individual who spitefully encouraged suicide by her friend.

However, the emotional basis hits a legal barricade attributable to doctrinal examination. By shifting accountability for the suicide of Roy to Carter, the actions of the defendant were possibly a but-for and contiguous cause of the regrettable outcome. Nonetheless, the sequence of causation may be broken by an intentional, intervening option of the victim to end his life (LaPalme 1446). Therefore, merely cheering a person to end his life is inadequate to gratify causation if the victim consequently, and of his volition, decides to do so.

Identifying a necessity for justice in this sphere, some states in America have implemented statutory resolutions. Unfortunately, in this case, all the set statutory solutions have been found insufficient in some way. Some state laws take “encouraging” and “assisting” suicide to be similar. Nonetheless, providing a person with the knowledge of the approach of ending his life, usually in the medical situation, is not factually equivalent to spitefully encouraging a teen through numerous messages to commit suicide (LaPalme 1445). Other state laws have not positioned the causation aspect entirely. This marks a dangerous aspect in the blink of overcriminalization.

Devoid of the existence of the causation aspect, merely inciting an individual to end his life with the requisite objective may result in homicide accountability. The case of Michelle Carter is an inadequate validation for such a landmark outcome.

The question that lingers is whether Michelle Carter’s action deserves to be criminalized in a manner that fairly and predictably inflicts similar culpability on other such conducts across the globe. The judgment passed to her implies that the answer is yes. Although the Supreme Judicial Court might have quoted unsteady precedent, they affirmed a significant rationale that is worth deliberating: the notion of “overpowering the will”.

People who have severe depression or suicidal ideations are at a high risk of pursuing the deadly course (LaPalme 1446). Consciously encouraging such a person to end his life is contrary to the incitement of any other individual with spiteful words since there is a high likelihood the death will happen. In the nonexistence of a suitable law of cyberbullying or promoting suicide in the state of Massachusetts, Carter’s case was evaluated under a premise of common law involuntary homicide.

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The new legislation would have the ability to not only tackle the causation issue but would also lead to enhanced global attention to the matter by particularly being branded as a cyberbullying decree. Unfortunately, endeavors to enforce federal cyberbullying regulations that may criminalize such action have previously failed. Nevertheless, with regard to the enhanced scientific knowledge on such a matter and the mounting level of suicides each year, the success of such regulations might be highly likely to emerge than ever before (LaPalme 1445). Particularly given the promotion about Carter and other similar cases, the action would assist in the ignition of an international discourse regarding the best approach of arriving at a suitable solution.

Irrespective of whether the path taken pursues a federal or state law, the resolution should properly tackle all concerns attributable to the causation investigation. An exceedingly vague resolution leaves people in a worse position than they were previously. An excessively strict approach that endeavors to incriminate all kinds of verbal promotion of suicide leaves more people than required to culpability, as well as improvement of the issues of free speech (Chin 262).

However, the adoption of statutory guidance should talk about causation and may do it through the pronunciation of guidelines that criminalizes “overpowering of the will” of some residents. Regardless of numerous jurisdictions having generated statutory plans to deal with the thought of promoting suicide, the progressions are liable for insufficiently tackling the causation aspect. This does not signify that the statutory projectile is not a practical one. Lawmakers may generate a statute that illegalizes suitable conduct without protecting people who spitefully promote suicide or leaves anyone who sends provocative messages culpable. Enactment of regulations is the best means of resolving uncertainty, and the right legislation may act as a model for regions around the world.


Anti-bullying practices have proceeded past only encouraging an individual to avoid ill-treatment of their peers to the establishment of laws that bring about criminal prosecution of persons in the wrong for issuing insults or threats. Whenever there is unkindness in people’s dealings, it is often a vice and not a crime. Considering the seriousness of Carter’s mistakes and the reality that she did not directly take part in the death of Roy, it emerges as though the best thing would have been for the family members to seek damages with the help of the law of tort in a civil court. Individuals who have severe depression or suicidal ideations are at a high risk of following the fatal course. Enactment of laws is the best means of resolving ambiguity, and the right legislation may act as a model for areas around the world.

Works Cited

Chin, Ashley. “Suicide by Text: The Case of Michelle Carter.” Journal of Technology Law & Policy, vol. 21, 2016, pp. 261-262.

LaPalme, Nicholas. “Michelle Carter and the Curious Case of Causation: How to Respond to a Newly Emerging Class of Suicide-Related Proceedings.” Boston University Law Review, vol. 98, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1443-1444.

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