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Court affirms Minnesota man's conviction in assisted suicide

Created: 12/28/2015 1:24 PM
By STEVE KARNOWSKI

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An appeals court on Monday 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.

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.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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