Oral Arguments Heard in Suicide Assistance Case

19 Apr

Let’s try this again…

The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments today in the case of William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from Faribault, who was previously convicted under Minn. Stat. 609.215 subd. 1, which states that “Whoever intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.”

Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel sought out depressed people in Internet chat rooms and encouraged two of them to kill themselves.

Although I couldn’t find any appellate briefs online, news sources reported that one of the issues on appeal is whether Melchert-Dinkel’s communication with the suicide victims was Constitutionally protected speech.

“You are permitted under the Constitution to have opinions and the right to share them,” defense attorney Terry Watkins reportedly said, according to the AP.

“He went to chat rooms knowing the people there would be predisposed to committing suicide,” prosecutors countered, according to the same AP story. “I think it is categorically outside First Amendment protections.”

The trial court, in Rice County, Minnesota, had previously found these First Amendment arguments unconvincing.

This story has been pretty big news, dating all the way to Melchert-Dinkel’s arrest. You can read more about Melchert-Dinkel on his Wikipedia page, and more about today’s oral arguments on MPR. And for anyone interested, here’s the criminal complaint.

Stay tuned…

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