Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 19, 2014

Minn. court ruling expected in aiding-suicide case

(Continued)

An appeals court panel ruled in July 2012 that the state's assisted suicide law was constitutional, and that Melchert-Dinkel's speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

"We are confident that the Constitution does not immunize Melchert-Dinkel's morbid, predatory behavior simply because it appears in the form of written words," the appeals court panel wrote.

But in a case involving members of the Final Exit Network, a different appeals court panel ruled that the state's law was unconstitutional when it comes to "advising" or "encouraging" suicide. The Florida-based group accused of playing a role in the 2007 suicide of a Minnesota woman, but the case was put on hold while the Supreme Court considers Melchert-Dinkel's appeal.

"We're just on pins and needles, waiting to find out what happens to Mr. Melchert-Dinkel," said Robert Rivas, an attorney for Final Exit.

Rivas said Wednesday's ruling would be "just a starting gun for us. We don't even know which direction we're going to run in."

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said his client also was anxiously awaiting the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision, though an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would still be possible.

"Everyone has a different investment in this decision, but in some ways, since it's a constitutional issue, I'm sure we have all some investment," Watkins said. "Bill has a very high vested interest ... it ends up affecting his life."

Melchert-Dinkel was sentenced to 360 days in jail, but that has been put on hold and he had remained free pending the appeal. If his conviction is upheld, he will have 30 days to report to custody.

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