The Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a former nurse accused of encouraging people he met online to commit suicide.
The court made headlines by ultimately ruling that the state can't convict William Melchert-Dinkel for "encouraging" or "advising" someone to take his or her own life, and that the law only applies to "assisting" suicide. (Via CTV)
Melchert-Dinkel had been convicted on two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of a 32-year-old British man in 2005 and an 18-year-old Canadian woman in 2008. (Via WDAZ)
According to prosecutors, 51-year-old Melchert-Dinkel spoke with both of the victims on a suicide website while pretending to be a depressed, young female nurse.
And in both cases, he reportedly feigned caring and compassion to win their trust, then gave them instructions on how to kill themselves. (Via KXXV)
Melchert-Dinkel's attorney claimed his client was exercising his right to free speech on that website and that he had no influence on either person's actions.
He also argued that the law that makes it illegal to intentionally advise, encourage or assist someone in suicide is too broad. (Via State of Minnesota)
And apparently, the court agreed — at least, to an extent.
It decided that the language in the section of Minnesota's assisted-suicide law about "encouraging" suicide is unconstitutional. But it did uphold the part of the law that makes "assisting" suicide illegal. (Via State of Minnesota)
And because a lower court didn't rule on whether Melchert-Dinkel assisted in those two deaths, the case has been sent back down to a lower court. Melchert-Dinkel's 360-day jail sentence had been put on hold during the appeal process.