It was not that long ago. In July 2014, Conrad Ray committed suicide in his truck at a local K-Mart parking lot. Upon researching his cell phone at the scene, police investigators discovered Conrad was in constant contact with his girlfriend Michelle Carter, and minutes before Conrad’s death, he had changed his mind and stepped out of the car filled with carbon monoxide and at the encourage of Michelle, Conrad re-entered his truck and end his life. Michelle would be convicted of involuntary manslaughter in August 2017 and just recently began her 15-month prison sentence. I’ll admit, that based on all the news stories at the time, it was pretty clear to me that Michelle Carter seduced her boyfriend into killing himself, but murder by text?
Documentarian Erin Lee Carr dives deep into this case in her 2-part HBO Documentary, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter. Carter interviews many key players associated with the investigation and close to both Conrad Ray and Michelle Carter including Conrad’s parents and close family; Michelle’s defense attorney and her mental health expert; and Esquire reporter Jesse Barron, who moved to Fairhaven, Massachusettes to cover the case from beginning to end. Missing are Michelle Carter and her family as well as the state prosecutors.
“…Michelle Carter seduced her boyfriend into killing himself, but murder by text?”
Part 1 of Carr’s documentary goes over in great detail the prosecution’s case against Michelle Carter. Conrad and Michelle had only met physically on five occasions over their long relationship but communicated for years through thousands of text messages. The police investigators walk us through how they uncovered this secret relationship and helps paint the picture of how Michelle pressured Conrad into suicide and how she would become popular in her community via an abundance of sympathy as a result of Conrad’s death. She took center stage at a charity memorial event in Conrad’s honor and gained new friends for support.
Most chilling are the final hours of Conrad’s life and the text exchange that took place during his final moments. These infamous texts were plastered all over the news along with unflattering candid shots of Carter during the trial. “I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready…just do it babe.” and “Get back in,” are just a few of the messages she sent to Conrad. It’s hard to walk away from Part 1 thinking she’s not a manipulative “ice queen.” But…
Part 2 extensively lays out Michelle’s defense and tells a very different story derived for the same facts. It’s revealed that both Conrad and Michelle were taken anti-depressants like Celexa. Conrad had already attempted suicide on four prior occasions. Both kids were teens with severe social and emotional issues and both kept their problems secret with each other. Then there are the texts we’ve seen in the news urging Conrad to get back in the f*@! car…which don’t exist. We gain a very different perspective on Michelle’s role in Conrad’s suicide when the facts are presented differently.
“Have we replaced the truth with the emotional argument?”
I Love You, Now Die is an incredibly compelling documentary. It fairly presents the facts of both sides of the case and leaves it to you to form your own conclusions. It’s as close to the actual trial you’ll get without reading the court transcripts. It also points out how the public can be swayed when the media only presents the most compelling, dramatic narrative to get to the masses. You believe Carter is a heartless sociopath, when arguably, she may not be, because this is the version of the story that will get the most subscribers, likes, and comments below. The public is clearly tainted, and this fact becomes the very reason the defense chose to waive Michelle’s right to a jury trial and have the presiding judge decide.
The preponderance of social media, the always changing news cycles, and threats of “fake news” force us to consider how we consume our news and opinions. The internet and media are there to present the emotional argument to get us to feel a certain way about political figures, events, and our gossip. Have we replaced the truth with the emotional argument? Can we calm down for a moment and take in all the facts, instead of the conclusions that fit our own personal narrative?
Is Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter? Did she cause Conrad Roy to kill himself? Is she a master manipulator? The reality is only a few dozen people where there in the courtroom and even fewer understood the true nature of Michelle and Conrad’s relationship. Erin Lee Carr does a masterful job just laying out the facts. You will walk away with more questions about what happened…but beyond a reasonable doubt? Which is exactly what documentaries should do.
I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter (2019) Directed by Erin Lee Carr. I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter premiered at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
9 out of 10 stars