PI Window Breaking News Exclusive: Nadia Kajouji’s Mother’s Reaction to Judge’s Order a Mix of Relief and Urgency
In a major set-back to the defense, several motions filed by attorney Terry Watkins on behalf of the Serial Suicide Killer William Melchert-Dinkel, including the controversial contention that the “Defendant’s conduct constituted speech protected by the United States and Minnesota’s constitution,” was denied by the courts.
In his November 8th order (a copy of which can be viewed through our SlideShare Viewer below), Judge Thomas M. Neuville denied defense attorney Terry A. Watkins’ motions to dismiss all charges against Melchert-Dinkel which claimed that:
- Minnesota Stat. 609.215, subd. 1, is unconstitutionally vague under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions,
- the Defendant’s conduct constituted speech protected by the United States and Minnesota Constitutions,
- Count 1 of the charge in relation to the death of Mark Drybrough due to lack of probable cause,
- Count 2 of the charge in relation to the death of Nadia Kajouji due to lack of probable cause.
A 5th motion filed by Watkins requesting that Melchert-Dinkel’s statements to the police during a January 7th, 2009 interview at the Defendant’s home in Faribault, Minnesota, and the evidence obtained as a result of said statements be suppressed, was withdrawn and therefore granted by Judge Neuville in his order.
A hearing has been scheduled for November 19th, 2010 at which time the court will accept Melchert-Dinkel’s waiver to suppress his statements to police, as well as receive the Defendant’s plea regarding the charges that were originally filed earlier this year on April 23rd.
While I will provide a more detailed breakdown of Judge Neuville’s order in my regular Friday post, in explaining his decision to deny the defense’s motion regarding free speech, several cases were cited in the order including references to State v. Williams, 759 N.W.2d 438,443 (Minn. 2009) in which the State meets the burden that in aiding and abetting another person to commit suicide, the accused is liable if said speech “encouraged the principal to take a course of action which he might not otherwise have taken.” This includes a “defendant who takes no steps to thwart its completion” re State v. Russell, 503 N.W.2d 110, 114 (Minn.1993).
Basically, Judge Neuville found that “the encouragement of a principal to take a course of action he might not otherwise have taken can be accomplished through speech.” This is an important decision in that speech is the primary “weapon” within the virtual realms of the Internet.
In recognizing speech as a tangible element in the violation of Minnesota’s assisted suicide statute, Judge Neuville did not accept the defense’s contention that given the similarities between Minnesota’s and California’s anti-suicide statutes, and the latter’s specific reference to the necessary presence of physical elements associated with aiding and abetting a principal in taking his or her own life through “furnishing the means for bringing about death – the gun, the knife, the poison, or providing the water” provided for in Ryan N., 92 Cal. App. 4th 1359, 1374 (Cal. 1st Dist. Div. 3 Ct. App. 2002), the Judge referenced Minnesota Statute 609.05 which states that “a person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit a crime.
Specifically, and in his ruling that the State met its burden re the question of Governance of Speech, “both the assisted suicide and aiding and abetting statutes require an element of intent that the respective suicide or crime takes place and an intentional act on behalf of the defendant in furtherance of that goal.” The order went on to state that “if the intent elements are met, acts to encourage, aid, or assist in the suicide or crime can be accomplished through speech.” In short the pen, or in this case virtual words, is indeed mightier than the sword.
In a PI Window breaking news exclusive, Deborah Chevalier who is the mother of Melchert-Dinkel victim Nadia Kajouji, had this to say about the decision in Minnesota:
“Although I’ve not yet had much of a chance to formulate my thoughts regarding today’s ruling, mostly I’d have to say that I feel relieved.”
Ms. Chevalier then stated that “now finally we can move forward again, get his plea, and go to trial. I’m looking forward to a conviction. It’s difficult that things move so slowly; even more difficult when they seem to be stalled.”
Taking a broader view of the proceedings south of the border, Ms. Chevalier then added, “this is a precedent that desperately needs to be set,” and that “this is not merely seeking justice for William Melchert-Dinkel’s victims.”
According to Ms. Chevalier, a conviction “will also send a message to other Internet predators and others who would use free speech as an excuse to bully and prey upon others.” It is her hope that “right now we are laying the groundwork that will enable us to prevent future tragedies,” and that if we succeed “perhaps police will be less hesitant to investigate and lay charges.”
While the motion for a mental evaluation of Meclhert-Dinkel pursuant to Rule 20.02 discussed in my November 5th post “Melchert-Dinkel Insanity Plea Not Likely To Succeed (But Did He Counsel Children In Taking Their Own Lives?)” was granted (note: the evaluation report is now in the hands of the concerned parties), meaning that the insanity plea is still on the table to be addressed by the courts, this latest decision by Judge Neuville removes what was at one point considered to be the major obstacle to conviction.
PI SlideShare Viewer:
Remember to use the following link to access the PI Window’s comprehensive coverage of the Serial Suicide Killer case; A Quest For Justice (Through A Mother’s Eyes) – A PI Window Exclusive (Weekly Series).