MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A national suicide assistance organization is on trial in Dakota County.
The group is the Final Exit Network, which uses as its guide the bestselling book by the same name.
The case focuses on one woman’s story, and it’s taken a lot of twists and turns through the course of the trial.
In 2007, Dorren Dunn was thought to have died of natural causes, but then her name surfaced in a Georgia case in 2009. That lead to charges against the group and four of its members, two of whom flew to Minnesota to help in the suicide.
The Dakota County Attorney’s Office has either dropped or dismissed the criminal charges against four members of the group, some of whom made a court appearance back in 2012.
Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom did not drop the criminal charge of assisting in a suicide against the Final Exit Network, and that continued to draw fire from the groups attorney Monday.
“She was suffering from intolerable conditions,” Attorney Robert Rivas said. “She made a decision to end her life.”
Doreen Dunn’s husband Mark testified for the prosecution, but his testimony appeared to bolster the defense. The opposing attorneys opted to not cross-examine him.
Mark Dunn testified that as her pain grew, “she became very depressed, she couldn’t play a musical instrument, she could not garden … for her to lose those capabilities was devastating.”
He also read from an application his wife sent to the Final Exit Network, which said, “I am living with unbearable chronic pain … I have fought the good fight … but it is futile.”
Prosecutors did show that Doreen Dunn was looking forward to two specific events in the future: the birth of her grandchild and her daughter’s return from an extended stay in Africa.
At least a half dozen members of the Final Exit Network were in the courtroom Monday, including Gary Wederspahn of South St. Paul.
“We strongly believe that people have a right to dignity, and to make choices themselves regarding their final time on this planet,” Wederspahn said.
Mark Dunn and his two children testified they are not in favor of assisted suicide, and did not know that Doreen had reached out to the group or had gotten help from them.
If the jury finds this group guilty of aiding in her suicide, they could be fined $33,000.
A gag order from the Dakota County Attorney’s office said they could not comment.