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Ex-Nurse Appeals Encouraging Suicides Conviction

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William Melchert-Dinkel

William Melchert-Dinkel (AP Photo/Robb Long)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The attorney for an ex-nurse found guilty of encouraging two depressed people to commit suicide is asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn his conviction, saying his actions were constitutionally protected free speech.

In papers filed Friday, defense attorney Terry Watkins argues that the trial court created a new category of prohibited speech, in violation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, when it found that William Melchert-Dinkel broke a Minnesota law against encouraging suicides.

Melchert-Dinkel acknowledges he gave the victims — a British man and Canadian woman — advice over the Internet on how to hang themselves. But his attorney argues they had already decided to commit suicide, and his communications did not lead them to do something they wouldn’t have otherwise done.

The trial court rejected the free-speech arguments.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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