William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from Fairbault, MN, has been found guilty on two counts of assisted suicide.
The judge ruled that Melchert-Dinkel “imminently incited” the suicides of two people–Mark Drybrough of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005, and Nadia Kajouji of Ottawa, Ontario, who jumped into a river in 2008. He is charged with two counts of felony assisted suicide.
Melchert-Dinkel went on to internet chat boards, posed as a young woman, and encouraged suicidal people to kill themselves. In several instances he even requested to watch via webcam.
“I wanted to just … be with them in their time of need,” Melchert-Dinkel said. “Just to be an advocate for someone who is all-along depressed, is at the end of their rope, wants to die and is going to do it come hell or high water.”
Terry Watkins, Melchert-Dinkel’s defense attorney, says he and his client intend to appeal the verdict. Watkins still maintains that the defendant’s actions fall under the category of constitutionally protected free speech. The judge rejects this argument, claiming that Melchert-Dinkel’s actions are considered “Lethal Advocacy” and is not protected by the first amendment.
This ruling also clarifies an important point about policing the internet. The guilty verdict makes it clear that internet activity transcends national jurisdictional boarders. Both of Melchert-Dinkel’s victims were from outside of the United States, yet he is being prosecuted in Minnesota.
“The prosecution’s argument still seems like a stretch,” says Criminal Defense Lawyer, Avery Appelman. “The victims were already suicidal. How can they be sure that Dinkel’s words drove them to suicide? Dinkel’s actions were reprehensible, yes. But some immoral, repulsive actions are still constitutionally protected. An appeal is forthcoming. This case is far from over.”