Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Appeals Court Affirms Man’s Conviction in Assisted Suicide
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
An appeals court yesterday affirmed the conviction of a Minnesota man for assisting the suicide of a British man, but reversed his conviction for attempting to assist a Canadian woman’s suicide.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convict William Melchert-Dinkel, 53, of Faribault, of assisting the 2005 suicide of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England.
It said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the ex-nurse of the lesser offense of attempting to assist the 2008 suicide of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario.
Authorities have said that Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging, and that he sought out potential victims online, posing as a female nurse and feigning compassion.
The appeals court said Melchert-Dinkel gave Drybrough detailed instructions on how to hang himself. But it said he didn’t give specific instructions to Kajouji when he recommended that she hang herself. She jumped from a bridge into a frozen river in Ottawa, where she was going to college.
With respect to Drybrough, the court said:
“The record does not support Melchert–Dinkel’s assertion that Drybrough had already decided to commit suicide by hanging before communicating with Melchert–Dinkel. It is true that Melchert–Dinkel’s original communication responded to Drybrough’s request for information about ‘hanging methods.’ But Drybrough later requested information about overdose medications and told Melchert–Dinkel that, after practicing with a noose, he wondered if overdosing would be ‘easier.’ Drybrough’s comments reveal someone who was considering more than one suicide method, not someone who was fully committed to suicide by hanging before communicating with Melchert–Dinkel.”
The court added:
“When viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, the stipulated facts are sufficient to support the district court’s verdict. In response to Drybrough’s request for information about ‘hanging methods,’ Melchert–Dinkel provided a list of detailed steps. When Drybrough suggested that he might take pills instead, Melchert–Dinkel urged hanging as the “best and surest method.”
The case has been the subject of a long legal fight that narrowed Minnesota’s law against assisting suicides. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed Melchert-Dinkel’s original convictions last year. The justices declared that a state law banning someone from “encouraging” or “advising” suicide was unconstitutional, but upheld part of the law making it a crime to “assist” in a suicide.
Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney, Terry Watkins, said they plan yet another appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said Melchert-Dinkel should have been allowed a jury trial after the Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. The judge declined to allow him to withdraw his waiver of a jury trial from his original trial.
Rice County Attorney John Fossum said he doesn’t plan to challenge the reversal of Melchert-Dinkel’s conviction in Kajouji’s death, given that the appeals court upheld his conviction on the more serious count, but that he was still evaluating the decision.
Melchert-Dinkel served nearly six months in jail after his 2014 conviction and remains on 10 years of probation. While he told police he did it “for the thrill of the chase,” he apologized at his sentencing and said he had repented.
The case is State of Minnesota v. Melchert-Dinkel, A15–0073.
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