William Melchert-Dinkel, 49, of Faribault, acknowledged that what he did was morally wrong but argued he had merely exercised his right to free speech and that the Minnesota law used to convict him in 2011 of aiding suicide was unconstitutional. He was accused of posing as a woman and scanning online chat rooms looking for people who were considering suicide, then giving them instructions on how to end their lives.
Both a British man and a Canadian woman killed themselves as a result of communicating with Dinkel.
The appeals court said the First Amendment does not bar the state from prosecuting someone for “instructing (suicidal people on) how to kill themselves and coaxing them to do so.”
Melchert-Dinkel was convicted last year of two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of 32-year-old Mark Drybrough, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005; and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.
He was sentenced to more than six years in prison but the terms of his parole meant he would only be imprisoned for about a year. His sentence was postponed pending his appeal, but at the time of sentencing, he was told that if his convictions were upheld, he’d have seven days to report to jail.
In arguing to overturn the conviction, the man’s attorney said his client didn’t talk anyone into suicide but instead offered emotional support to two people who had already decided to take their lives.
Assistant Rice County Attorney Benjamin Bejar had argued that Melchert-Dinkel wasn’t advocating suicide in general, but had a targeted plan to lure people to kill themselves. Prosecutors have said he convinced his victims to do something they might not have done without him.