Minnesota high court reverses nurse's conviction for encouraging suicide

By Kyle Johnson,

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed William Melchert-Dinkel's conviction for encouraging people online to commit suicide while he told them to let him watch via webcam.

Three years ago, the former nurse was found guilty on two counts of aiding suicide by convincing two people to end their lives, reports The Associated Press. The judge in the 2011 case had ruled Melchert-Dinkel "intentionally advised and encouraged" their suicides.

The state's law that makes it illegal to "encourage" or "advise" suicide contains language that is just too broad and violates the First Amendment, the court ruled.

Reuters notes that the law as it stands could even be applied to making a simple conversation about suicide illegal.

However, Melchert-Dinkel, who had his one-year prison sentence put on hold during the appeal process, could still face jail time as the law also makes it illegal to assist in someone's suicide. Since the original judge did not rule on that portion of the law, the state's highest court will send it back for review.

The former nurse argued that what he was doing should be covered under the First Amendment.

He went online and claimed to be a suicidal female nurse and encouraged a Canadian woman and English man to kill themselves. Nadia Kajouji took her own life by jumping to a river, while Mark Drybrough hanged himself.

Melchert-Dinkel's activities were uncovered after a woman contacted police after seeing conversations in a chat room.

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