Part V in a series of reports on Michelle Carter. Parts I through IV can be read here, here, here and here.
“Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice he is the worst of all.” Aristotle
“Michelle was shown on Danish TV, the usual way, and you were left with the feeling she must be horrible. The witch hunts never end.” Peter Gøtzsche, MD, Danish physician, researcher, and author
In the previous report in this Michelle Carter blog series, I examined the basis of the DA’s case that Michelle killed Conrad Roy by texting. The entire case rested on proving beyond a reasonable doubt that seventeen-year-old Michelle told Conrad Roy to get back into his fume-filled truck in order to finish his suicide attempt, and that Conrad immediately obeyed and died as a direct result.
The DA charged Michelle with murdering Conrad with words that most people assumed were written down, recorded, or otherwise physically documented at the time Conrad died. There never has been any physical evidence for what, if anything, transpired between Michelle and Conrad shortly before his death. Instead, the DA based its entire case on a fragment of a longer text that Michelle sent to a friend more than two months after Conrad’s death!
When Michelle sent the infamous text to her girlfriend, two months had gone by since Conrad’s death. Michelle was distraught and overwhelmed with guilt and remorse. In her vulnerable and emotionally wounded condition, Michelle had been texting and phoning Conrad in heaven dozens of times during the prior two months, hoping he would keep his promise to communicate with her from the afterlife. When she wrote the text taking blame for his death, Michelle was in despair over never having heard from Conrad after his death, and she was finally letting go of this delusional hope.
Although the District Attorney in trial called Michelle a habitual liar who would say anything to get attention, the same DA nonetheless treated these few self-incriminating words from Michelle to a friend as if they were absolutely true and indeed uncontestable in their validity.
Yet this same DA knew, for example, that Michelle had told one friend that she never had sex with Conrad and yet told another that he forced sex on her. The DA also knew that Michelle had given many other versions of her relationship with Carter before his death—something that is common after people have gone through trauma and antidepressant intoxication (see Part IV of this series).
The DA was also aware of the mountain of science that I had testified about as her medical expert. I had presented this science at a hearing in which the judge accepted it as admissible in court. I had presented it again in trial along with a drawing on a white board describing the grossly harmful impact of antidepressants on the brain.
I had also described the science in my written report in the case (Public Record 63 in the Michelle Carter Archives), and in my many scientific studies attached to it (Public Record 64). I had continued to send dozens of other scientific studies to the judge and the DA. Many of the additional scientific studies can be accessed for free on my Antidepressant Resource Center.
Even if the judge did not accept my arguments for involuntary intoxication, which he did not, it had to be clear that young Michelle Carter’s memory could not be trusted after being through so much trauma, loss, and drug exposure. Nonetheless, the DA succeeded in getting Michelle Carter convicted of manslaughter on nothing more than a few words texted to a friend at a time of delusional thinking and profound grief and confusion two months after Conrad’s death.
In Parts I-IV, I discuss how the DA succeeded in gaining the conviction by means of highly emotional and at times misleading and untruthful manipulations in public and in the courtroom. Here I want to look more closely at the DA’s motivation and other activities.
Michelle Carter’s attorney, Joe Cataldo, called the DA’s indictment of Michelle a case of “prosecutorial overreach.” But it was closer to a modern witch hunt.
In a witch hunt, authorities in a society turn innocent people into scapegoats, blaming them for real or imagined crises within the community. Perhaps the public destruction of the accused “witch” expresses and relieves pent up rage boiling over for reasons other than anything the accused ever perpetrated. Perhaps the suffering inflicted upon one innocent relieves others of their guilt, shame and anxiety, or their feelings of helplessness as members of the society. Perhaps the inquisitors and society are trying to make sense out of turmoil and chaos by finding someone to blame and to punish. At the same time, perhaps they achieve some sense of control through their abuse and destruction of the innocent victim.
I say “perhaps” about each of these motives because it is difficult to feel satisfied with any explanation for the orchestrated prosecution of one innocent human. However, two aspects of witch hunting seem nearly certain:
First, a successful witch hunt requires the coming together of powerful interest groups and the authorities who represent them and enforce their agendas.
Second, those who prosecute and persecute the witch gain political power and inspire fear of themselves in others. Witch hunting is enormously self-aggrandizing.
Why the Witch Hunt Continues
The DA got their conviction and that might have ended without any glitches; but two people stood in the way. The judge showed unexpected leniency, and I decided to write a series of blogs to tell the real story behind the Michelle Carter case.
Trial judge Lawrence Moniz shocked the DA by sentencing Michelle to a mere 15 months in the comparatively benign local House of Corrections rather than in the state pen. His explanation for this was based on treating her not as a villainous adult but as a juvenile—a child—in need of rehabilitation. Then Judge Moniz further blocked the DA’s sacrifice of Michelle by staying or delaying the time that she would begin to serve the sentence. Michelle was allowed to remain free until she exhausted her appeals process, which could take many years. He further thwarted the sacrifice by remarking that her case was obviously vulnerable to appeal.
The judge’s leniency resulted in the District Attorney’s Office holding a post-sentencing press conference at which Assistant DA Maryclare Flynn stated (Public Record 66):
“While we are disappointed the judge chose to stay the sentence, we remain steadfast in our belief that Michelle Carter committed involuntary manslaughter and needs to be held responsible.”
In addition to the judge’s leniency, the DA now had to contend with Michelle’s psychiatric expert, who refused to go away. I decided that the true story of Michelle Carter, including the effect of psychiatric drugs on her and on Conrad, needed be told. The truth was necessary not only for their sake, but also for the sake of justice and America’s future generations of children.
How did the DA respond to the first two reports in my blog series and the promise of more to come, along with my creation of the Michelle Carter Archive? The DA asked the judge to criticize me and to stop me from writing any future blogs about the trial! In a handwritten note, the DA formally requested the indefinite prior restriction or prior censorship of my writing—a move usually made by the federal government when potentially published material could put the nation’s safety at risk (Public Record 55).
In his initial response to the wild exaggerations and untruths in the DA’s motion, Judge Moniz agreed with the request to call a rare emergency hearing. With almost no notice, no one was able to get there the next day to defend me. The DA had manipulated the court to gain free rein to lie about me in public and, once again, to push their attack on Michelle uncontested into the media.
Fortunately, after the hearing, the judge accepted a letter from my attorney and he found my explanations satisfactory for closing his inquiry. Then, in his written response to the DA’s emergency motion (Public Record 60), Judge Moniz made no criticism of me and said nothing to affirm the DA’s outrageous attacks on me. Instead, he reiterated his previous order that sealed Conrad Roy’s medical records, which I had always respected. The judge similarly ignored the DA’s extraordinary demand to stop me from writing about the case.
Of course, I wish the judge had more actively confronted the DA’s accusations and demands, and openly rejected them. However, by simply noting that I had explained myself in my letter and then ignoring the censorship demand, the judge let it drop into the mighty trashcan reserved for abuses against First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of press.
A Direct Hidden Connection to Personal Ambitions
Earlier in this report, I wrote that “Witch hunting is enormously self-aggrandizing.” At that moment, I did not yet have this information which I found only moments ago.
On August 23rd, 2017, Assistant DA Katie Rayburn was nominated by the governor for a judgeship. Her own office made the connection I am making to her ambitious prosecution of Michelle Carter. A newspaper cites the DA’s Office as connecting Rayburn’s appointment to her successful prosecution of Michelle Carter (Public Record 65):
NEW BEDFORD — Katie Cook Rayburn — nominated as an associate District Court judge — has a nearly perfect record prosecuting murder trials as well as a conviction in the Michelle Carter suicide texting case, her office said.
Rayburn, 43, has tried 14 murder trials as a prosecutor in Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III’s office and won 13 of them, said Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the office.
The article, almost surely following the PR line from the DA’s office, emphasizes how much great publicity the Michelle Carter case in particular generated for Assistant DA Rayburn:
Rayburn, whose successful conviction in the unconventional Carter involuntary manslaughter case caught many legal experts by surprise, gained a degree of national profile over the course of the trial.
She appeared with [Assistant DA] Flynn in a 20/20 special about the case, and her impassioned closing argument was witnessed both by a tense and crowded courtroom and people across the country watching on livestreams of the trial. [italics added]
Rayburn’s vigorous prosecution of Michelle Carter earned her the governor’s nomination to a lifelong judgeship. All she now needs is approval by the Governor’s Council.
No wonder Rayburn was so determined to “win” again, especially in her highest profile case.
No wonder the same Katie Rayburn went to Judge Moniz, asking him to make an emergency intervention to stop me from any further publications concerning the trial! That ex partite hearing took place on August 11, 2014, thirteen days before the official announcement of her nomination. The “emergency” was hers—her fear that my Michelle Carter blog series might disrupt her smooth ride to a judgeship!
Meanwhile, the reader may find interesting my analysis of Rayburn’s “impassioned closing argument” in Report IV of this series.
The Witch Hunt as a Personal Vendetta
Witch hunts are so destructive to the fabric of society that it takes considerable passion and strong motivations for witch hunters to pursue them. Perpetrators of witch hunts can be driven in part by blind ambition, as our data suggests may have occurred in Michelle’s case. They can also be motivated by a personal vendetta.
I am not employing hyperbole in raising the issue of a vendetta, nor am I speaking metaphorically. A vendetta is defined as a blood feud in which the family of a murdered person seeks vengeance on the murderer or the murderer’s family.
Many members of Conrad Roy’s family are not forgiving. A number, including his father and an aunt, have spoken out in the press and on TV angrily calling for a stiff punishment. Since the conclusion of the trial, Conrad’s mother has sued Michelle Carter for millions of dollars (Public Record 69). The lawsuit is more likely to satisfy revenge than to squeeze any money from Michelle who has been declared indigent by the state.
Although the family vendetta against Michelle probably helped to motivate the prosecution in this small community, there is a more direct family tie to the DA’s office.
The District Attorney of Bristol County, Thomas Quinn III, whose office prosecuted Michelle, is the third cousin of Conrad Roy and the first cousin by blood to Conrad’s grandmother. Is it reasonable to ask if we have a blood feud?
How did DA Thomas Quinn handle his ties to Conrad Roy’s family? According to a published statement by Michelle’s attorney Joseph Cataldo, Quinn hid his family ties from July 2014 when he began investigating Michelle as the Assistant DA until February 2015 when a newspaper made the disclosures. The disclosures were made by the press around the time Quinn was sworn in as the DA. Quinn never came clean on his own about the potential conflict of interest and even the potential for a vendetta.
A Need for Skepticism
A spokesperson for Quinn stated that Quinn had recused himself from the case when he was still an Assistant DA and continued to recuse himself as the DA. If so, why was the recusal never made public and told to the defense team?
What are the odds that the District Attorney could manage to have no influence over his most high-profile case over a period from July 2014 forward for more than three years? Even if DA Quinn tried hard not to show his feelings or to share his thoughts about this controversial and emotionally explosive prosecution, could he have succeeded? And besides, if he did formally recuse himself, then everyone in his office would have known about his connections to the Roy family, and that in itself could influence the course of the prosecution.
Michelle’s attorney Joseph Cataldo argued that it was not enough for the DA to recuse himself. Cataldo did not think that the case should be run by prosecutors “who owe their job to Conrad Roy’s cousin.” Cataldo argued that Michelle Carter was “entitled to a fair, disinterested prosecutor and that’s not what we have here.” He wanted the case assigned to a special prosecutor—either a prosecutor from another district attorney’s office or an assistant U.S. attorney.
Judge Siobhan Foley, not the judge who would conduct the pretrial hearings and the trial, disagreed. He refused to appoint an independent prosecutor and allowed the case to continue in the office of the Bristol County DA (Public Records 66-68).
The Mysterious Police Officer Who Never Came Forward to Save Michelle
The District Attorney’s Office can change the course of trials without ever stepping into a courtroom. An aggressive DA can control the kind of information that police provide simply by having a tough reputation.
A pivotal moment in the fate of Michelle Carter occurred in late January 2017, when Michelle Carter’s attorney Joseph Cataldo received from the DA much-delayed information surrounding the search for Conrad Roy two and a half years earlier at the time of Conrad’s death.
Conrad’s last contacts with Michelle were early in the evening on July 12, 2014 and for the DA’s case to be viable, Conrad must have died at that time or very close to it. He certainly could not have driven around for about eight hours after Michelle supposedly ordered him back into the truck to die.
Conrad was found dead in his truck in a Kmart parking lot around 5 pm the following day, July 13, 2014, and the police assumed that his body had been there since the previous evening when he last talked with Michelle.
The new information ruined the entire narrative created by the DA. An EMT report from July 13, 2014 described hearing from local Fairhaven police that they had searched the Kmart parking lot at 3 am the morning of the 13th and Conrad’s black truck was not seen. If the truck was not there at 3 am, then Michelle’s texts and phone calls many hours before 3 am could not have caused his death, because he must have driven off for hours before dying back at the Kmart. Michelle was innocent (Public Record 70).
This information was so stunning that Cataldo asked Judge Moniz to throw out the case. The judge refused, and Michelle’s attorneys went to work trying to locate any police officers who would have been checking Kmart parking lot at 3 am and then talking about it later on. Because it was hearsay—something heard by the EMT—the EMT’s statement was not acceptable as evidence in court.
No police officer would own up to recalling the absence of Conrad’s truck from the Kmart. In the absence of a police officer willing to admit he made the observation and that it was true, Michelle’s trial moved on to its tragic conclusion.
A District Attorney is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of his district. He works closely with the police in a highly cooperative manner. The Michelle Carter case had been under investigation for two and a half years and was a highly controversial top priority on the DA’s agenda. Many of the lawyers in the DA’s office may have seen it as a make or break risk. What are the odds that any police officer, especially after the passage of two and a half years, would admit to remembering anything that would utterly undermine the case? None came forward.
It must happen sometimes, but I have never heard of a police officer blowing a giant hole in a DA’s case for the sake of truth. In the highly-charged Michelle Carter case, with the DA related to the victim’s family and the Assistant DA ambitious for a judgeship, it is hard to imagine any police officer stepping up to ruin the case.
The Michelle Carter case is a tragedy on many fronts. Both she and Conrad Roy were betrayed by many adults and authorities.
Part VI in the Michelle Carter blog series will continue next week with more surprising revelations about who is to blame for the tragedy and what we can learn from it.