MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A former nurse in Minnesota was convicted on Tuesday for a second time of intentionally assisting in the suicide of a British man who hanged himself and of attempting to assist the suicide of a Canadian woman who died after jumping into a river.
In a written decision, Rice County Judge Thomas Neuville found there was significant evidence William Melchert-Dinkel assisted Mark Drybrough, 32, in his 2005 suicide in Coventry, England, even though he had not provided physical assistance.
The judge also found that Melchert-Dinkel, 52, tried to help Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Ottawa, with a suicide, although his encouragement and instruction on how to hang herself were not a direct cause of her 2008 death.
Both Drybrough and Kajouji chatted online or exchanged emails with Melchert-Dinkel days before killing themselves, according to court papers. Melchert-Dinkel posed online as a suicidal female nurse, advising people on the proper methods needed for a successful hanging and other topics.
A British woman who had frequented a chat room where people discussed suicidal thoughts warned police in 2008 that she suspected an online predator was encouraging suicides. Police linked Melchert-Dinkel to related email addresses.
Melchert-Dinkel, who had entered a plea in which he accepted the evidence against him and allowed the judge to render a verdict while preserving his right to appeal, argued that his discussions amounted to free speech.
He was first convicted in the case in 2011, but the Minnesota Supreme Court threw out the convictions earlier this year after ruling that parts of state law making it a crime to encourage or advise a suicide were unconstitutional. It upheld a part of the law that made it a crime to assist a suicide.
The case was returned to the lower court for consideration.
Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney, Terry Watkins, said he would appeal the convictions.
“I don’t think there is a question that the judge got it wrong,” Watkins said in a telephone interview. “I am certainly very confident that his decision will be overturned again.”
Neuville scheduled sentencing for Oct. 15. Melchert-Dinkel, of Faribault, Minnesota, has been free while the case was being appealed. He had been sentenced to a year in prison on the original convictions.
Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Paul Simao and Peter Cooney