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Here’s What to Expect at Michelle Carter’s Sentencing for Involuntary Manslaughter

Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman convicted in June of involuntary manslaughter for telling her boyfriend to continue on with a suicide attempt when they were both teen high school students, will be sentenced Thursday.

She faces one of several possible paths.

Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a common-law crime, as a youthful offender. Youthful offender status provides judges with three possible sentencing options.

First, it’s possible Carter could be committed to prison for the full possible adult sentence. For involuntary manslaughter, the possible maximum penalty for Carter is no more than 20 years in prison. She could also face a $1,000 fine coupled with a sentence of not more than two-and-a-half years in prison. If Carter is ordered to a prison under this first possible option, she could be ordered to adult confinement. She’s over the 18-year limit under the sentencing statute for imprisonment “in a youthful offender unit separate from the general population of adult prisoners.”

Second, it’s possible Carter could be sentenced to a “combination sentence.” She could be committed to the department of youth services until she’s 21 years old (Carter is currently 20). After that, she would receive an adult sentence — in theory. It would be suspended pending a successful probation period.

Third, it’s possible Carter could be committed to the department of youth services until she’s 21.

The options before Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz, who presided over the trial, are therefore rather broad.

It’s important to note, however, that the overarching principle of youthful offender law is that parties brought before the court “shall be treated, not as criminals, but as children in need of aid, encouragement and guidance.”

That guidance is something the judge will have to take into account.

The judge will also have to consider sentencing recommendations. The recommendations must protect both “the present and long-term public safety.” Here are factors the court must consider:

  • The nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense;
  • Victim impact statement(s);
  • A report by a probation officer concerning the history of the youthful offender;
  • The youthful offender’s court and delinquency records;
  • The success or lack of success of any past treatment or delinquency dispositions regarding the youthful offender;
  • The nature of services available through the juvenile justice system;
  • The youthful offender’s age and maturity;
  • The likelihood of avoiding future criminal conduct; and
  • Any other factors it deems relevant to disposition.

Live coverage of the sentencing begins at 1:30 p.m. EST on the LawNewz Network. The hearing itself is scheduled to stream at 2 p.m. EST. Watch below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is the anchor and executive producer of Law&Crime Daily on the Law&Crime Network.  The broadcast is a recap of the day's most compelling trials and court proceedings.  He also serves as an editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.