Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Convictions for advising suicides overturned

  • Print

MINNEAPOLIS -- The mother of a Canadian university student who committed suicide after online conversations with a former U.S. nurse said the reversal of the man's convictions means justice isn't being served.

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the convictions Wednesday of William Melchert-Dinkel, who is accused of encouraging two people he met online to kill themselves.

One of them was 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji of Brampton, Ont., who jumped into a frozen Ottawa river in 2008.

The Carleton University student's mother said the ruling doesn't change what Melchert-Dinkel stands accused of.

"It's a legal system, it's not a justice system. The two are completely different," Deborah Chevalier said after hearing of the ruling. "At the very least, the world knows what he's done. His friends, his family know what he's done. He can't run away from that."

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. The judge found he "intentionally advised and encouraged" Kajouji and an English man -- 32-year-old Mark Drybrough, who died in 2005 -- to take their own lives.

The high court struck down a section of the state's assisted-suicide law that makes it a crime to "encourage" someone to commit suicide, but upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to "assist" in someone's suicide.

Since the lower court judge did not rule on whether Melchert-Dinkel "assisted" in a suicide, the high court sent the case back to that judge for further consideration.

Rice County prosecutor Paul Beaumaster, who handled the case, said it's now up to the lower court judge to decide whether the evidence showed Melchert-Dinkel "assisted" in the suicides.

Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer, Terry Watkins, said he doesn't believe there is enough evidence to prove that.

Beaumaster disagreed. The court ruling says speech alone can be used to "assist" or enable a suicide if it goes beyond merely expressing a moral viewpoint or providing comfort or support.

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

Beaumaster said the fact the justices sent the case back to the lower court shows there's evidence Melchert-Dinkel assisted in the deaths.

Justice Alan Page disagreed the case should be sent back to determine whether Melchert-Dinkel "assisted" in the suicides. He said there's not enough evidence, and it is a waste of the court's resources.

The high court's ruling could affect the outcome of another case that challenged the constitutionality of Minnesota's law that bans people from assisting, advising or encouraging suicide.

That case involves members of the Final Exit Network, a national right-to-die group, who were involved in the 2007 death of an Apple Valley woman. That case is also pending before the Supreme Court.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2014 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

O'Shea says the team is going to stick to the plan after first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google