FARIBAULT, Minn. – Prosecutors argued Friday that a former nurse should be convicted of assisting suicide for sending emails and other online communications in which he urged two people in Canada and Britain to kill themselves and gave them information on how to do it.
William Melchert-Dinkel, 52, was back in court more than three years after he was convicted of encouraging suicides in the deaths of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ont., in 2008 and Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, in 2005.
The Minnesota Supreme Court earlier this year reversed those convictions, saying the state’s law against encouraging or advising suicides was too broad.
The high court, however, upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to assist someone’s suicide, and lawyers for both sides returned to court to argue over whether Melchert-Dinkel’s conduct qualified.
Kajouji was a student at Carleton University in Ottawa when she jumped into a frozen river after several conversations with Melchert-Dinkel.
Evidence at that trial showed Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and sought out depressed people online, posing as a suicidal female nurse, faking compassion and offering detailed instructions on how they could kill themselves. Police said he told them he did it for “the thrill of the chase.”
In a hearing Friday, Assistant Rice County Attorney Terence Swihart said the state Supreme Court had defined “assist” as providing a person with what they need to die by suicide.
Defence lawyer Terry Watkins said that while Melchert-Dinkel encouraged the suicides, he didn’t have a knowing role in the commission of the acts and there is no evidence that his advice led to the suicides.
The judge took the case under advisement and was to issue a decision within 30 days.
_ With files from The Canadian Press.