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Court reverses convictions in aiding-suicide case

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

Justice Barry Anderson, writing for the majority, said speech alone can be used to assist or enable a suicide if it is narrowly targeted to one person and provides that person with what is needed to carry out the act.

"This signifies a level of involvement in the suicide beyond merely expressing a moral viewpoint or providing general comfort or support. Rather, 'assist,' by its plain meaning, involves enabling the person to commit suicide," he wrote.

"Here, we need only note that speech instructing another on suicide methods falls within the ambit of constitutional limitations on speech ..." the ruling said.

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said he doesn't believe there's enough evidence to prove his client assisted in the deaths.

"We've never pretended that the actions that he did should be condoned or should be admired ... but constitutionally, he was not in the wrong," Watkins said.

Justice Alan Page offered the lone dissent. While he agreed that the state's language against "advising" and "encouraging" suicides is unconstitutional, he disagreed that the lower court should now determine whether Melchert-Dinkel "assisted" in the suicides. He said there's not enough evidence, and it's a waste of resources.

Minnesota authorities began investigating Melchert-Dinkel in March 2008 when an anti-suicide activist in Britain told them that someone in the state was using the Internet to manipulate people into killing themselves.

According to prosecutors, investigators found emails in which Melchert-Dinkel gave Drybrough details on how to hang himself, stating "just a sturdy knot is very much all one needs."

Internet chats with Kajouji suggest he posed as a compassionate, suicidal woman who promised she would die shortly after Kajouji. In one conversation, he allegedly told her hanging would be better than jumping, and: "im just tryin to help you do what is best for you not me."

Chevalier, Kajouji's mother, and Elaine Drybrough, Mark Drybrough's mother, both believe Melchert-Dinkel influenced their children.

"Her last communication on the computer was with him," Chevalier said. "I think that tells you he did have something to do with it."

Beaumaster, the prosecutor, said everyone has the right to voice his or her opinion, but the state also has to try to protect vulnerable people.

"It's not free speech to try to get other individuals to take their lives," Beaumaster said. "In fact, it's, I think, the antithesis of what our Constitution was meant to be."


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