MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minnesota nurse accused of prowling Internet chat rooms for depressed people and encouraging two of them to kill themselves is maintaining his innocence, but giving up his right to a jury trial, according to court documents made public Friday.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, asked for permission to enter a type of plea that would allow him to keep his not guilty plea but would require him to accept the evidence and let a judge decide the outcome without hearing testimony.

“I believe that a jury trial is not necessary and not in my best interests,” Melchert-Dinkel said in a court affidavit.

If Judge Thomas Neuville finds Melchert-Dinkel guilty, Melchert-Dinkel can’t appeal the conviction, but has the right to appeal pretrial issues. Melchert-Dinkel has lost several pretrial motions, including an argument that the case should be dismissed because his actions were protected free speech. Neuville said the First Amendment doesn’t protect speech that directly encourages and imminently incites suicide.

“He’s putting his fate in the hands of the judge,” said Joseph Daly, a professor at Hamline University School of Law. “But if found guilty he’s going to have one more bite of the apple and be able to go to the appellate court.”

A hearing on Melchert-Dinkel’s request to enter a “Lothenbach plea” is set for Feb. 17.

Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney, Terry Watkins, and Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Melchert-Dinkel, of Faribault, is charged with two counts of aiding suicide for allegedly advising and encouraging two people to take their own lives. Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, hanged himself in 2005, and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, of Brampton, Ontario, drowned after jumping into a river in 2008.

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

Prosecutors say he acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.

He allegedly told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.” Watkins has argued the victims were predisposed to committing suicide and his client didn’t sway them by making statements online.

Unlike some states, Minnesota does not allow defendants to enter conditional guilty pleas. Prior to 1980, if a defendant wanted to keep the right to appeal any pretrial issues, he or she had to plead not guilty and go through trial — even if the facts of the case were not in dispute. A 1980 Supreme Court ruling changed that.

Under the rules of the Lothenbach plea, prosecutors must agree that if the defense would have won their pretrial arguments, there would be no case, while defendants must agree they won’t contest the prosecutors’ evidence, Daly said.

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

Comments (9)
  1. lebrok says:

    Looks like this guy has a future in the obama cabinet maybe to run the end of life consoling department

  2. JohnF says:

    When you’re sitting in a wheelchair full of urine in the hallway of a nursing home somewhere unable to ask for help, or even knowing that sitting in urine is a bad thing, or when your body is wracked with pain from cancer eating through your bones, THEN you get to make cracks about end-of-life “counseling”. Get a dictionary.

  3. mimi says:

    I used to work in a nursing home, where there was a 35 yr old man, that was married and had a job and 3 children under the age of 10. He came out of a bar drunk, fell and ended up with brain damage. He went through with what John F. said in his comment except with the cancer. This man could never ask for help. Checks had to be made on him every 15-30 minutes, because he kept trying to hurt himself. This man could not commit suicide. He may have been trying. I pray that anyone that reads this has some kind of compassion for people that want to end their life’s. No person knows what goes through their minds when they do not want to live anymore, the only one that would is one that has gone through it, and they survived. Thank you John F for your comment.

  4. Jake says:

    In my eyes, helping a depressed individual commit suicide is manslaughter or maybe muder in the 3rd degree. He said earlier that he did it for the chase or thrill of it. Guilty is my vote.

  5. lib says:

    If you want help committing suicide just call Hospice. I didn’t reallize that my father was being pumped so full of Morphine he was starved and his organs shut down. I remember coming upon a conversation with the hospice nurse, ” now J….. you said you wanted to die”, whe he had talked about an experimental drug at Mayo. All life has dignity, even if you don’t think that life has quality. It is dangerous thinkiing to decide for someone else, they have no use, no quality of life or no dignity. Talk about a slippery slope.

  6. linda says:

    Yes, it is a slippery slope. This guy is definitely GUILTY though because as far as i know these were healthy individuals EXCEPT for their depression, which might have been helped & they might have lived long happy lives. Only 18 & 32yrs old! It’s disgusting-he was obsessed with suicide – too bad he didn’t experiment on himself first. See the Kavorkian movie. Even he would only help those with a VERY short time to live who were suffering much more than the quality time they had left. Suffering,waiting to die is scary to say the least, it’s a hard decision to make personally, but don’t fault someone who helps these people end their suffering.

  7. linda says:

    I meant to say I don’t fault these people.

  8. Jeffrey Lee Wilson says:

    I have to agree with linda. This man is crude. He could have very well talked them out of suicide as opposed to encouraging them. Clearly he has mental issues as well. After he goes to prison he should get treatment. 🙁