• What happens next in Minnesota v. William Melchert-Dinkel?

    As we struggle to understand one of society’s last taboos – suicide – this latest round of Minnesota v. William Melchert-Dinkel proves how unprepared we are for the wave of suicide litigation and legislation that is coming. “Assisted” suicide and “assisting” suicide have never been more loaded rhetoric as both right-to-life advocates and suicide prevention activists compete for center stage to battle it out over our nation’s suicide ethics.

    Will suicide be regarded as the lethal pox that stuffs its greedy jaws with another unnatural death every 13 minutes, 40,000 times a year? Or will it be my life, my choice? And what about the murky peripheral issues that will come with these lawsuits?

    Rounds 1 through 4 of Minnesota v. William Melchert-Dinkel have been every bit as problematic as those of the late 1990s for assisted-suicide and euthanasia-activist Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was convicted of second-degree murder for killing one of his terminally ill patients. Many believe Kevorkian’s divisive work ultimately led to the controversial legalization of physician-assisted suicide in four states – Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

    Portrayed in the media as “Dr. Death,” Kevorkian had defiantly claimed to have assisted the dying of 130 patients. Eerily similar, suicide predator-nurse, William Melchert-Dinkel, has bragged about how many despondent people he has helped convince to die by suicide – five by his own count. Last month, Melchert-Dinkel was convicted for the second time, this time for “assisting” in the suicide death of one person and the “attempt to assist” in another.

    The sentencing verdicts for both of these two prominent suicide proponents will be remembered as historically remarkable. While medical pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian served eight years in prison for his culpability in suicide death, William Melchert-Dinkel will serve 178 days.

    Like Dr. Kevorkian, who had been released early from his 10-25 year prison term on the condition that he never conduct another assisted suicide, so William Melchert-Dinkel, too, will be expected to quell his female alter-egos, “Li Dao” and “Falcongirl,” who had trolled unsavory Internet websites such as alt.suicide.holiday “for the thrill of the chase” (his words) hoping to lure despondent victims to exploit for his personal gratification by way of fake suicide pacts.

    As it stands now, if Melchert-Dinkel cannot control his suicide fetish for the probationary 10-year period, he will be sentenced to spend an additional three years in prison for his recidivism. Even so, he will still avoid the much harsher potential sentence for his crimes that could have been as much as a 22-year incarceration with fines of up to $44,000.

    It is going to take some time for many of us to assimilate this news and in the end, all we are going to be left with is the historical record of who said what to whom and when, and what happened after that.

    Minnesota v. William Melchert-Dinkel had never been about the lofty idea of someone suffering and being allowed to end a life with dignity (as those enamored of that suicide euphemism would insist). It will never be about a First Amendment free speech guarantee, either, no matter how often the ambition-driven defense lawyer Terry A. Watkins pitches that particular idea.

    There is nothing about the immoral behavior of William Melchert-Dinkel that remotely merits holding him up as America’s poster boy for free speech. The ex-LPN, ex-trucker (yes, unemployed again) and presumably ex-predator’s salacious behavior tells us a lot about him and the untold misery he has inflicted on others.

    Now, we have his atypical statement from the October 15 sentencing hearing. He says he is sorry and has “repented.” We also have his lawyer’s statement, too: “In many ways my client has already been punished by recognizing his involvement and the effect it had on his family.” His family.

    We also have the legal words from District Judge Thomas Neuville, who first convicted Melchert-Dinkel in 2011 and again in September, 2014. In his latest sentencing, Judge Neuville said, “I believe you have suffered. My sentence is also an attempt to recognize the need for justice to the victims.”

    And has justice been served? Will the four stipulations of his punishment fit the crime? Will cooling his heels for just under six months in the Rice County jail, performing 200 community service hours after his release, not chatting on the Internet except for work and paying a $1500 fine really be punishment enough for this person who clearly needs psychological help himself?

    Would the family and friends of 18 year-old Nadia Kajouji, who ended her young life by jumping into the frigid waters of Ottawa’s Rideau River in 2008, or those of 32 year-old Mark Drybrough, who hanged himself per Melchert-Dinkel’s instructions in Coventry, England, in 2005, think this punishment was enough?

    Many can sympathize with Judge Thomas Neuville, who first convicted Melchert-Dinkel under the Minnesota law that made it illegal to “advise” or “encourage” suicide (MN 609.215). His original conviction was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals but was abruptly vacated in March 2014 by the Minnesota Supreme Court who declared the 128 year-old statute “unconstitutional,” striking out both “advise” and “encourage,” but leaving “assist,” since assisting in another’s suicide remains illegal in all United States jurisdictions unless you are a physician and then only in the four states that allow it.

    Speech by itself, the high court argued, could be considered “assisting” a suicide if the words targeted a specific person and provided the victim with what was needed to carry out the act. While this new definition fit Drybrough’s death by hanging because Melchert-Dinkel had given him specific instructions, it did not apply to Kajouji’s death since she had not followed his “instructions.”

    Whether Minnesota’s new law means it is technically “legal” to encourage and/or advise suicide in that state – according to the way most of us use language – is now anyone’s guess, but it is exactly how many journalists this week described what Melchert-Dinkel had done to go to jail in the first place, writing headlines such as “Minnesota suicide fetish nurse gets jail for convincing two people to take their lives” and “Man who encouraged suicide gets jail time.”

    Why worry, though, about interpretation and the semantics of suicide baiting, much less the suicide euphemisms many prefer such as “death with dignity?” After all, a 52 year old predator has been effectively “stopped.”

    We should worry because Melchert-Dinkel’s defense lawyer Terry A. Watkins has not.

    Already Watkins has reported his plans to appeal. Most likely, he is gearing up not only with the same First Amendment issues, but with due process arguments as well since the original charge had not included “assisted.”

    Watkins has also indicated he wants to add probable cause into the case, too, citing the absent cause and effect link between Melchert-Dinkel’s words and the subsequent act of suicide – “the nexus of activity” – an idea first articulated by Minnesota constitutional law professor Raleigh Levin.

    The imminent Round 5 will mean another grueling legal nightmare for the loved ones of Nadia and Mark, and most of us will find our sympathies lie with these people. They have waited so long for accountability and justice. Surely, too, everyone who follows this case is tired of hearing ad nauseam Watkins’ tired little potboiler philosophy that a “moral wrong” is not the same as “a legal wrong.”

    If William Frances Melchert-Dinkel were truly as repentant as he says he is, he would just tell his lawyer Terry A. Watkins to shut up. If either had lost a child this way, they would.

    R.I.P. Dylan Yount, Suicide Baiting Victim, February 16, 2010, Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco. While I have breath, I will fight in your memory.


    • Please support our work to raise awareness about suicide baiting at Suicide Baiting Prevention at https://www.facebook.com/SuicideBaitingCrowdPrevention?ref=ts

      • Kat Lowe

      • October 18, 2014 at 9:59 am
      • Reply

      It was my chat logs and pictures that the court is using to decide his guilt.When I asked why he pretended to be a woman,he said that “if,and only IF they come looking for me,they will be looking for a woman”-does that not define ‘guilt’?Besides the 2 people he is charged with assisting,he groomed and likely did watch many others die;perhaps by hanging.Kevorkian only assisted the terminally ill,or those that had tried every alternative to get past their chronic illness.Dinkel groomed children as young as 13,using social media such as bebo(frequented by younger people) and suggested no alternatives,such as seeing a doctor or getting therapy.His victims were often anxt stricken young people who would have got better if they had the right help.He ENCOURAGED their suicide.That is the difference.He WANTED to see them die and gained satisfaction from that.He also admitted that it was like an addiction-who will monitor his computer usage and also phone access to the internet?As much as I have hate for this man and what he has done to these families,he does need help.A secure hospital with no defined sentence-so he can only be released when he is no longer considered a threat may be a more suitable sentence.I know he will never be able to get past this,so if the doctors are on the ball and recognise his deviance,he would never be released.

      • Exactly, my point, Kat. A licensed DOCTOR gets 8 years, and a predator gets 6 months! Thank you for reinforcing my idea and for extending our awareness about WMD through your reflections. I had read that he used the persona of women (Li Diao and Falcongirl) to throw off anyone who might potentially investigate him at some point, and it is chilling to hear you speak about his conversation with you. It is also an honor to know you and to thank you publicly for the work you and Celia Blay did to expose Melchert-Dinkel. My heart goes out to not only you two but also to the families and friends of Nadia and Mark. I agree that as much as there is to hate about this man, it is obvious he needs professional help. Meantime, he goes to jail with no “stays” on October 24 and he is on probation for 10 years. Only time will tell us if he can control his addiction to suicide death.

    • He & his attorney are both evil ,sic people.

      • Hi, lidine. The lawyer IS frightening. Why anyone would want to keep appealing this case is beyond me. It is interesting that two versions exist of one article I posted on Suicide Baiting Prevention about what Watkins had said. I know this because I posted it on SBP and ran a hard copy and Stephanie commented there and quoted the part that is now missing. In the FIRST article Watkins is quoted, “Obviously, we don’t want people doing what he did, but it was a moral wrong. We don’t put people in jail for moral wrongs,” but when I went back to print to read it again that text had changed to “Watkins said what Melchert-Dinkel did was morally but not legally wrong.” I have BOTH COPIES to prove this. Maybe the writer Camey Thibodeau made a mistake or MAYBE Watkins had a hissy fit and the newspaper changed it. Just saying. Trying to prove that William Melchert-Dinkel was some free speech champion is ridiculous.

      • Margaret Cone

      • October 19, 2014 at 6:28 am
      • Reply

      Let me just address the defendant’s right to free speech: Miller v. California (1973) “Speech is unprotected if (1) “The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the subject or work in question taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interests”
      …..”appeals to the prurient interest” is limited to shameful or morbid sex…Morbidly obsessed with death. Being obsessive and offensive and not respecting common standards of behavior.

      Certainly we must conclude looking at the clandestine behaviors of the defendant that there was shame and guilt involved in his motivation of encouraging people to kill themselves and wanting to watch them in the act of suicide. I do not believe both hands were on the camera.

      • Neither do I, Margaret Cone. Thank you for citing Miller v. California. Let us hope that these common standards of behavior do not change to accommodate suicide baiting.

    • Ms. Yount,
      I don’t know what I can say on this subject but I feel I must say something. First of all, thank you for this well thought out column. It is well written and full of information on a very touchy subject. I must say that I think under the right circumstances we are all capable of helping a loved one end their pain. I personally cannot deny the fact that I’m not certain, 100% certain, that I would not comply with the wishes of someone I love, on their deathbed, begging for relief. I just don’t know.
      For the last few months before I was to leave Vietnam for home I planned in great detail the end of my days. I told myself that I should do it on American soil. The day I landed in country I bent down and kissed the soil of the country I loved so much. Returning veterans were not popular and were subject to some pretty vile crap from the public. Laws were passed in efforts to force corporate America to hire Vietnam vets. At that point, I knew I only had a few days left. 24 hours later +/- I was in Sears buying a rifle. I took it into the trees of my parent’s farm in Missouri. I could not do it.
      Within a couple of hours of buying the rifle I gave it to my brother and went out wandering. I never went back to my parent’s home and I saw them only for fleeting moments in the next 45 years for fear I might ask for their assistance. Throughout my life I have occasionally had encounters with suicidal thoughts thus several stays in David Grant’s suicide ward at Travis AFB. I think I may be what is typical of American veterans these days for the number of suicides among veterans are increasing every day.
      I really don’t know what any of this has to do with your column, it just came out. My point is that if I will ask others to help me out how could I deny them with the same request.

      • Thank you, Donald, for your thoughtful and honest comment. I follow your work always and admire you — and your writing abilities — greatly. I think you detailed the subject of suicide perfectly with the word “touchy.” End of life issues about death with dignity (suicide) are all mixed in with the issues of suicides of young people, and we are just not prepared — in the least bit — for the litigation — and next the legislation — that is going to hit us. A DOCTOR gets 8 years; a maniac gets 178 days. Add to that the national shame regarding the increasing numbers of suicides of our brave veterans and, voila — even more chaos! Suffice it to say — my main concern, as well as my area of expertise — is suicide baiting. Depression, chronic depression, mental illness, the impulsivity of the despondent moment we might all feel from time to time — are ALL controllable or curable diseases/longings! I am so glad you are still with us. You have much to offer us with your experience and wisdom. I am glad you responded to me about this column. Any misunderstanding between us is due to my inability to articulate the subject well enough, BUT I am learning. Many thanks, Kathie Yount — P.S. Missouri? Where? I went to college with a girl whose last name was Sanders. Is it going to end up that we “know” each other? I was Kathie Gifford before marriage.

        • Kathie,
          My parents bought a farm while I was away over seas so I never actually lived in Missouri. The farm was a retirement home for my parents. I lived with my mother only 4 years (my highschool years) At the orphanage I went to school only half a day and the other half I worked in the large kitchen so I was two years older than my classmates in high school. My senior year I got kicked out of English Comp for writing stupid stories and almost didn’t graduate. They had to let me graduate because they didn’t want me at 20 years old wandering the halls with teenage girls. Although I thought it was OK. Actually, one more month and I could have legally driven to grade school. Ha.Kathie, there was never a misunderstanding and I’ll tell you why. My wife and I can read the same article and we will get two different meanings out of it. I live in my own little world even though I do have a large brain. People point at me a lot. This article is very informative and well written by you. Your writing is much better than mine because I write as if I am talking to a person face to face, much of the time for entertainment, unlike yours that if fit for a classroom. I really do look forward to your next column.

    • Point taken, Donald, about what readers “bring” with them to the reading. At the same time, the writer has an intent in what he hopes to convey. I thought this last piece would make the reader draw his own conclusions and that I had given enough “directions,” but boy oh boy was I wrong. Of course the issue is hot right now, but just consider the media response to Robin Williams and now to Brittany Maynard! I think I was trying to take shortcuts to explain. Death with dignity is still assisted suicide — assisted always implies a societal complicity. I know I was right, but apparently, way too ineffectual to explain how difficult it has become to think about “assisted and assisting suicide” these days. I am satisfied that the column did provoke a lot of discussion, but VOW I will need to get better articulating the touchy, touchy topic! I love your writing and wish I could speak as you do, “face to face.”

      • Maya North

      • October 26, 2014 at 7:56 pm
      • Reply

      The first time I wanted to die, i was 6 years old, but had no idea how to do it. Over the years, the impulse has overcome me many times, but stubbornly, I resist. I simply won’t do that to my loved ones. However — should I get a terminal disease or dementia, don’t expect me to stick around and be a breathing corpse for my family to bankrupt itself trying to care for. For most people, truth is, they don’t want to die. They want the pain to stop. So horrific that this monster preyed on these people when it’s likely a kind word — and the suggestion that they work on whatever ailed them — would have renewed their desire for life…

      • Margaret Cone

      • October 27, 2014 at 2:54 am
      • Reply

      Is life so sweet, “I” would endure anything to stay alive? So, many of us ask ourselves, under what circumstances would “I” be ready to die? By no means would “I’ ever ask my loved ones or any other human being to take on a burden so great as to affect his/her very soul. Assisted, Is not an option.

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