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Dakota County Attorney will appeal assisted-suicide ruling

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has filed a decision which affirmed the decision of Dakota County District Court striking down the portion of Minnesota’s assisting suicide statute that makes it unlawful to advise or encourage someone to commit suicide. In doing so, the Court of Appeals determined that the terms “advises” and “encourages” as used in Minnesota’s assisted suicide statute are “facially overbroad” and infringe upon speech that is considered protected under the First Amendment.

The decision was based upon a Dakota County case. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said his office will appeal the decision.

Despite these rulings the Court of Appeals determined that there remained sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable probability that Final Exit Network, Lawrence Egbert and Roberta Massey physically assisted Doreen Dunn in committing suicide and remanded the case back to the District Court for trial.

Final Exit Network, Egbert, Jerry Dincin, Massey and Thomas Goodwin were originally indicted by a Dakota County Grand Jury in May 2012 on multiple counts of assisting suicide and interference with a death scene related to the death of Doreen Dunn May 30, 2007. The originally autopsy had listed the cause of Dunn’s death as coronary artery disease. However, the investigation into her death was reopened in 2010 when police received information from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that in the months leading up to her death Dunn had become of member of FEN and had numerous communications related to her medical condition and taking of her life with multiple FEN representatives, including Massey and Dincin.

FEN is a Georgia non-profit corporation that provides its members end-of-life counseling and “exit” services, which includes information and support for members seeking to hasten their death through suicide. During its investigation, police also discovered evidence indicating that Egbert (FEN’s medical director) and Dincin had traveled to the Dunn residence on the day of her death. Dincin has since died and the charges against him were dismissed. The trial court also dismissed charges against Goodwin for lack of sufficient evidence, which the State did not appeal.

The previous case, State versus Melchert-Dinkel, is currently being reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.