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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court To Review Inyoung You Case

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact University Counseling Services at 617-552-3310 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) will review the criminal charges brought against former Boston College student Inyoung You in February of next year in connection with the suicide of her longtime boyfriend Alexander Urtula in 2019, The Boston Globe reported on Sunday.

The review of the case is the next event in a series of legal developments since Urtula, BC ’19, jumped to his death from a parking garage in Roxbury, Mass. hours before he was set to graduate in May 2019. 

You took an Uber to the garage after tracking Urtula’s location and learning of his plans to commit suicide. She was present at the time of his death. You’s trial is pending the outcome of the SJC’s review.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a press conference in October 2019 that You had engaged in a pattern of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse throughout her 18-month relationship with Urtula, and that the abuse worsened in the days and hours leading up to his death. 

Many of the text messages the couple exchanged in the months preceding Urtula’s death were evidence of You’s abuse, including messages in which You told Urtula to “go kill himself” and that she, his family, and the world would be better off if he did so, Rollins said. 

When You heads to the Commonwealth’s SJC next year, she faces a manslaughter by commission charge, meaning that You’s words could have caused Urtula to kill himself. In January of this year, Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied You’s motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge, but granted the dismissal of a second charge—manslaughter by omission, that You’s failure to summon help caused Urtula’s suicide.

Both the prosecution and defense appealed Roach’s decision to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. On Aug. 5, You filed for direct appellate review—which allows a case to go before the Massachusetts SJC without having to make arguments in the appellate court. The SJC granted the direct appellate review on Sept. 15. Oral arguments will begin Feb. 2.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

You faces the same charges as Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 after convincing Conrad Roy III to kill himself through a series of phone calls and text messages. The Massachusetts SJC upheld Carter’s 15-month conviction, which she was released from early for good behavior. The Supreme Court declined to review her appeal, which argued that the sentencing violated her First Amendment right to free speech, in January of last year. 

Steven Kim, one of You’s lawyers, said in an email to The Heights in February of last year that comparisons between the two cases ignore the actions You took upon learning of Urtula’s intent to harm himself on the day he died.

According to the text messages released by her representatives, You texted Urtula over 120 times on the day of his death and begged him not to kill himself. 

On the day of Roy’s death, Carter ordered Roy over the phone back into a truck that was filling with carbon monoxide after he had exited it. 

“The facts in Carter that led to the SJC’s opinion are completely the opposite of what happened in the facts surrounding Alex Urtula’s suicide, and this prosecution is a complete radical expansion of the Carter doctrine as well as a complete departure from four centuries of established case law governing homicide,” Kim said in a 2020 email to The Heights

The implications of the SJC’s decision will be far reaching, Kim said in a statement to The Heights on Wednesday.

“There are very important legal and practical issues that this case has generated, issues that are not just novel, but ones that will have wide potential implications and ramifications on what types of speech and conduct can and should be criminalized,” Kim wrote. “Issues surrounding whether primarily speech can be prosecuted as a homicide go far beyond just this one case, which is partly why the Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to consider this appeal.”

Featured Image Courtesy of the Urtula Family via Suffolk DA’s office

November 18, 2021