Ex-nurse pleads not guilty to suicide aid
FARIBAULT, Minn. — A former Minnesota nurse pleaded not guilty Friday to encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to kill themselves, and his attorney brought another motion to dismiss the case.
William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, requested a jury trial during his court appearance Friday.
Melchert-Dinkel is charged with two counts of aiding suicide. Prosecutors say he sought out depressed people in Internet chat rooms and encouraged two of them to kill themselves.
Defense attorney Terry Watkins is asking the judge to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction by Minnesota courts, since "no part of this crime occurred here."
"Tapping on a keyboard has no instrumental or elemental value in this crime. All effects occurred in Canada and England," Watkins said.
But Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster disagreed, saying that "this is something that's fired back-and-forth, this is advice and encouragement happening instantaneously."
"The encouragement originated from here in Rice County, Minnesota, in Faribault," Beaumaster added.
Earlier this month, District Judge Thomas Neuville refused a defense request to dismiss the case on free speech grounds.
His attorney had argued that Melchert-Dinkel's e-mail and Internet conversations involved protected speech. Neuville disagreed in a Nov. 9 ruling, saying that speech that aids the suicide of another is not protected by the First Amendment.
The prosecutor contends that Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging, and cruised the Internet for potential victims. When he found them, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves.
Melchert-Dinkel was charged in April with two counts of aiding suicide in the 2005 hanging death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, and the 2008 drowning of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario.
Although Melchert-Dinkel allegedly used aliases, law enforcement officials say they traced online correspondence advising and encouraging Kajouji and Drybrough to commit suicide to a computer in Melchert-Dinkel's Faribault home, the Faribault Daily News reports.
Both sides have until Dec. 10 to submit briefs to Neuville. The judge will take the issue under advisement on Dec. 13 and will have 60 days to make a decision. If the judge rules the Rice County court has jurisdiction, the case will go to a jury trial. If the judge finds there is no jurisdiction, the case will be dismissed.
The defense also wants the judge to certify the proceedings as First Amendment proceedings to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, basically a pretrial appeal on the free-speech issue. That issue also will be argued in the briefs.
Information from: Faribault Daily News, http://www.faribault.com