The Serial Suicide Killer Melchert-Dinkel appeals his conviction (Part 1)
William Melchert-Dinkel 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.
Within his defense attorney’s own words rests the possible basis for denying William Melchert-Dinkel’s appeal that his conviction should be overturned for the role he played in aiding the suicides of a British man and Canadian woman.
Specifically the argument put forth that “the victims had already decided to commit suicide.”
During my interview with distinguished professor Susan Brenner, she had made the statement – although later she lamented the fact that she wished she had used different words, that the individuals whose eventual suicides for which Melchert-Dinkel stood trial had to a certain extent gotten what they had intended by “hanging around suicide chat rooms.”
Here is the question . . . how can anyone really know what another person’s intentions are leading right up to the moment that they took their life? Is there a point in which there is reflection and a possible hesitation to go through with it? What about feelings of fear and the natural instinct to survive?
The problem with the defense’s and to a certain extent Brenner’s opinions is that they attempt to create a definitive world of black and white where there are no gray areas. Yet the law does recognize the reality of these gray areas in that it allows for one to recant their intended actions.
I can remember watching an episode of Law & Order in which Assistant DA Stone observed that even though a person had met with someone to talk about hiring them to kill their partner, when they then shortly thereafter called the individual to say that they had changed their mind and did not want to go through with it, this conscious recantation is recognized in criminal law. In short there is a difference between attempt and intent.
Now I know that you are probably saying that Law & Order is just a television show and you would of course be right. But here is the thing, having the intention to commit suicide as demonstrated by the interaction between the two individuals and Melchert-Dinkel in the suicide chat rooms, is not the same as making an attempt to commit suicide.
This is what I would call a linchpin consideration relative to Melchert-Dinkel’s conviction in that had either of the victims not come into contact with him, would it be reasonable to assume that they might very well still be alive today? What if instead of encouraging them to take their lives, the now 49 year old Faribault nurse chose to encourage them to seek help? Would there have been a different outcome with at least one if not both of the victims?
On the other side of the intent versus attempt argument, how would we define Melchert-Dinkel’s actions re would they make him more or less guilty for the role he played in the deaths of his two victims?
Once again, I will turn to the Law and Order show in which DA Stone presented the scenario of a man who after jumping off of a building is fatally shot by another man during his fall down to the pavement. While one might argue that the jumper was going to die and as a result the man who shot him did nothing to contribute to the expected or inevitable outcome, the argument presented by Stone is that the intent and effect of the shooter is what counts.
In this context, Melchert-Dinkels’ intention is not up for debate as he clearly and for self-serving purposes pursued these as well as other individuals in a predatory manner. To be more direct, and even if one were to accept the argument that beyond any reasonable doubt both of his victims had intended to kill themselves, one could still argue that Melchert-Dinkels’ intervention was tantamount to his firing the fatal shot with a clear intent to do harm.
This somewhat ironically brings us back to a comment made by Susan Brenner in which she stated; “The basis for the assimilation or perhaps reconciliation of virtual and physical realities in terms of law enforcement starts with the basic premise of criminal law, which is about “preventing the infliction of harm.”
I doubt that anyone familiar with this case would dispute the fact that of all the matters and points of law that are up for debate, you would be hard pressed to dispute the willful intent of Melchert-Dinkel to do harm.
Recognizing that I have been somewhat liberal in my references to a television program as a means of illustrating important elements to this case as it relates to Melchert-Dinkel’s pending appeal on April 18th, in Friday’s post I will cite actual case references to support the examples given here today.
In the meantime, here is the link to our extensive and exclusive coverage of the story during these past 2 years including our radio interviews and television commentaries; A Quest For Justice – The Case Of the Serial Suicide Killer.