Lee Greenberg wrote an extensive article that was published in the Ottawa Citizen on December 5 on the appeal by William Melchert-Dinkel, the Minnesota nurse who was convicted of counselling suicide, in the deaths of Brampton Ontario teen Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough from the UK.
Kajouji was a first-year student at Carlton University in Ottawa. She became deeply depressed and established a suicide pact with Melchert-Dinkel after he contacted her on a suicide chat site under an assumed name.
What is particularly devastating is how Melchert-Dinkel used his relationship to gain some type of personal gratification in the suicide death of Kajouji and Drybrough. You may wish to read the earlier articles about this case that can be found by linking to Nadia Kajouji or Internet Suicide. Please read the following article:
Man gave 'support, understanding,' documents claim
By Lee Greenberg, Ottawa Citizen
The disgraced former Minnesota nurse convicted of assisted suicide in the death of Carleton student Nadia Kajouji was like a good, nurturing friend, someone who wanted to watch her die via webcam "in an act of togetherness and mutual support, to avoid (her) being alone." That is the message contained in an appeal filed in U.S. court on behalf of William Melchert-Dinkel, the 49-year-old man who admitted to trolling online chat rooms with the aim of trying to push vulnerable participants into suicide.
Watkins argues Melchert-Dinkel did not affect the course of Kajouji and Drybrough's life. Both came to the decision to kill themselves independently of the nurse, who was posing as a depressed female nurse under a variety of aliases, he says.
The chats, which include specific instructions on hanging and many subtle psychological exhortations, are protected by Melchert-Dinkel's constitutional right to free speech, the lawyer argues.
"The First Amendment doesn't allow a judgment to be made on the despicability of one's speech," Watkins writes, "only its - effect of getting another to do something which they otherwise might not do."
A judge in Minnesota decided otherwise last May when he found Melchert-Dinkel guilty of two counts of the state's assisted suicide law. The statute makes it a felony crime to "advise, encourage or assist" in the act.
Judge Thomas M. Neuville ruled free speech is restricted when it comes to encouraging suicide, because of the state's "compelling interest in preserving all human life."
He also ruled against Watkins' argument that both victims were already suicidal when they were contacted by Melchert-Dinkel. "The predisposition of a suicide victim actually makes the victim more vulnerable to encouragement or advice," the judge wrote in his decision.
Neuville sentenced the father of two to 320 days in jail, including two days each year for the next decade on the anniversary of each victim's death.
The case is so rare that the judge had no sentencing guidelines to draw from.
Kajouji, a Brampton, Ont., native, had slipped into a deep depression during her first year at Carleton after an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage.
Melchert-Dinkel contacted the 19-year-old girl in early March 2008 in response to a posting she made on a suicide website.
Over the course of three separate chats, the two formed a suicide pact.
"Would die today if we could but I will wait and see how it goes for you," Melchert-Dinkel, posing as "Cami," says at one point.
"We are together in this," Kajouji tells him.
"Yes, I promise," he replies. "Monday will be my day."
A prominent psychiatrist who reviewed the transcripts for the Citizen said the conversations likely emboldened Kajouji and "sped up" her decision to end her life.
"What 'Cami' is doing here, slowly over the course of the conversation, is making suicide sound acceptable, natural, OK to do," said Dr. Marshall Korenblum, psychiatrist-in-chief at Toronto's Hincks-Dellcrest Centre.
However, Melchert-Dinkel's constant urgings to Kajouji over the method of her death - he prefers hanging, preferably while he watches on a webcam - go unheeded. Kajouji entered the conversation with a plan to jump off a bridge into the Rideau River while wearing skates, to make it look like an accident. On March 10, 2008, she executed that plan.
That ultimately factored into the decision by Ottawa police not to charge Melchert-Dinkel under Canada's assisted suicide law.
Uday Jaswal, a staff sergeant with the force and lead investigator on the case, told Kajouji's mother "given the totality of the evidence we had seen in terms of her own pursuit, in terms of going to a variety of sites, looking at suicide methods, we couldn't establish any sort of cause and effect between that conversation (with Melchert-Dinkel) and her suicide."
Melchert-Dinkel, who once checked himself into a hospitable complaining of an "addiction" to suicide chat rooms, has compared his perverse obsession to hunting, telling U.S. investigators he enjoyed "the thrill of the chase."
The native of Faribault, Minnesota, is free pending the appeal.
A court date for the appeal has not yet been scheduled.