Judge Won’t Toss Aiding Suicide Case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former nurse accused of seeking out depressed people online and encouraging two of them to kill themselves lost another attempt to get his case dismissed Friday, after a judge ruled the charges could be heard in a Minnesota court.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, has been charged with two counts of aiding suicide for allegedly advising and encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to take their own lives.

He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Terry Watkins, had asked that the case be dismissed, arguing that Minnesota doesn’t have jurisdiction because the deaths happened elsewhere.

But Rice County District Court Judge Thomas Neuville disagreed, saying Minnesota law allows someone to be convicted if the offense was committed “in whole or in part within the state.” In this case, the online and e-mail messages were allegedly sent from Rice County, he said.

Neuville pointed to another case in Minnesota, in which the court found that the venue for a crime can be based on the location of either an e-mail sender or recipient.

“By analogy, when the charge is advising, assisting or encouraging suicide, through electronic communications, the prosecution of that offense can occur in the state of Minnesota from the county where the communication was sent,” Neuville wrote.

Neuville also denied a defense request to have the state Court of Appeals consider a free speech question in the case. The question doesn’t meet legal standards for a pre-trial review by the appeals court, he said.

Neuville already ruled that the First Amendment doesn’t protect speech that directly encourages and imminently incites suicide.

Neuville wrote in his order filed Friday that the facts of the case must be established before the case goes to the appeals court and this could be done at trial. Melchert-Dinkel can make a First Amendment appeal after a trial if he’s convicted, the judge said.

Trial is set for April.

Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging and cruised the Internet for potential victims. When he found them, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves.

He was charged in April with two counts of aiding suicide in the 2005 hanging death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Conventry, England, and the 2008 drowning of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario.

In earlier court documents, prosecutors said Melchert-Dinkel admitted participating in online chats with up to 20 people about suicide and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.

Melchert-Dinkel allegedly told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.”

Watkins, Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney, has argued the victims were predisposed to committing suicide and his client didn’t sway them by making statements online.

Watkins said he would’ve liked to avoid a trial that he feels is unnecessary but “regardless of whether it’s a trial or whether it’s a post motion, we’re still confident that he’ll be acquitted.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • The Crux of the Biscuit

    This is nothing more than a freedom of speech issue. Defendant simpl e SPOKE to two people and stated his opinion. They made the descision and took the action. The dendant has an opinion that MANY WOULD PROFESS TO, so that in and of itself suggests no intent.

  • GreenMile

    This freak needs to get locked up in Solitary Confinement with Bubba……and a jar of Vaseline. He would probably enjoy it.

  • JKB

    IF I had my choice, Id want the right to decide to live and die in my control. When people have to endure months and years of pain, do you really think they want to continue? NOT ME! I want to die with dignity, and would definitely choose to end my life when I feel the time is right . Weve all experienced relatives and friends with diseases that have caused unbearable pain, is that how youd want your life to be? We need to have the choice as to how our life ends.

    • artist

      Well said JKB. I don’t need some judge to decide if I’m ready to go when that time comes. Just another attorney who’s ego has outgrown common sense!

  • Dave Seavy

    I agree with JKB, and would support assisted-suicide legislation. The problem with this case is the deception and motive. If he really cared about those people, there would be no deen for lies and false identity. I think in his situation, he’s merely living out some sort of twisted fantasy. Free speech has its limitations. It goes back to shouting fire in a crowded theatre. When you intice someone to end their life, it’s criminal. They didn’t seek him out, he stalked them.

  • artist

    Oh c’mon! How about prosecuting those that are actual murderers first. Then some day down the road- if theres not enough to do, worry about this one.!!!

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