Recent charges filed against a former Boston College Student are similar to the landmark Michelle Carter case where the SJC found that passive conduct of sending text messages could constitute involuntary manslaughter, despite the fact that Carter was not present at the time of death in that case. Inyoung You, 21, was recently charged with involuntary manslaughter in response to an incident where her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula, 22, jumped from a parking garage killing himself just only hours before his graduation from Boston College. Authorities stated that You, who was also a Boston College student, was “physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive” towards Urtula during their 18-month relationship.
According to news reports, You was present at the parking garage when Urtula jumped because she had tracked his location. Prosecutors said that You repeatedly text Urtula encouraging him to commit suicide saying such things as, “go kill yourself” or “go die” and making statements that You, Urtula’s family, and the world would be better off without Urtula.
Prosecutors contend that You was aware of Urtula’s depression and describe a pattern of abuse and manipulation throughout the relationship in which You allegedly exercised “total control” of Urtula both mentally and emotionally by the demands and threats she made to him. In the two months before Urtula’s death, You sent more than 47,000 text messages to Urtula in which she told him to kill himself “hundreds of times,” according to Rollins.
At this time, You is in her native South Korea. However, the Suffolk County District Attorney, Rachel Rollins, is “cautiously optimistic” that You will return to the United States voluntarily. The DA’s office is currently working with You’s counsel to coordinate an arraignment, but Rollins also stated that, “If [You] does not [come back voluntarily], we will utilize the power we have to get her back.” A recent article in the Boston Herald details the legal difficulties in this process.
There is currently a bill in front of a legislative committee in Massachusetts that would make encouragement or assistance of suicide a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
This case draws comparisons to the Michelle Carter case. Michelle Carter is currently serving a 15-month sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a judge who determined that her texts to her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, convinced him to kill himself in 2014. It should be noted that Carter is currently appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court on 1stand 5thAmendment grounds.
District Attorney Rollins acknowledged that the two cases were similar in some ways, but differentiated the two as well, stating, “But where I would distinguish, and I think the facts will show in Carter there was very limited physical contact prior and some very egregious language in the instance or moments leading up to the death. We have quite frankly, I would say the opposite of that. We have a barrage of a complete and utter attack on this man’s very will and conscience and psyche by an individual to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up.”
Indeed, the biggest difference between these two cases is the fact that Carter was not present at the time of Roy’s death while You was present at the time of Urtula’s.
Additionally, the DA’s office seems to be focusing more on domestic violence in the You case compared to the Carter case stating in a press conference announcing You’s indictment, “This case is a tragedy, but it’s just one example of a systemic epidemic. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It effects individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Domestic violence does not manifest in one particular way. It can include forced isolation from friends and family, physical assault, stalking, economic coercion, emotional threats, sexual assault, and psychological intimidation. Domestic violence is not perpetuated by one type of abuser. A perpetrator is not limited by their gender or the gender of their partner. Domestic violence may not always look the same, but it is always about power and control.”
If found guilty, You’s case may bring up additional constitutional law issues just as Carter’s case has.
I will be following this case closely and post additional updates and commentary on the legal issues present in this case. You can follow Attorney DelSignore on Facebook to keep up on current issues in criminal law.