Prosecutors: Speech urging suicide isn’t protected 07 Feb 12

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Prosecutors in southern Minnesota say an ex-nurse was not participating in protected speech when he went online and encouraged two depressed people to kill themselves.

William Melchert-Dinkel (MEL’-kurt DINK’-ehl) was found guilty last year of aiding the suicides of a British man and Canadian woman. His attorney is asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn the conviction on free speech grounds, arguing the victims had already decided to commit suicide.

In documents filed last week, Assistant Rice County Attorney Benjamin Bejar says First Amendment protections are not absolute and don’t cover words encouraging another person’s lawless conduct.

He says evidence shows Melchert-Dinkel’s speech encouraged his victims to do something they might not have done without him.

The appeal continues. Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney now has a chance to respond to prosecutors’ arguments.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)