Free speech claimed in online suicide case

A Faribault man's attorney on Wednesday will ask an appeals court to throw out his client's conviction for encouraging suicides over the Internet.

William Melchert-Dinkel is a former nurse who communicated online with a Canadian woman and a British man about how to hang themselves. Both later committed suicide.

Melchert-Dinkel and his attorney didn't dispute the facts of the case during his trial last year. But they argued he couldn't be convicted under a state law barring people from assisting suicides because, they say, he was merely exercising his free speech rights.

The attorney also argues that the two people who committed suicide had already decided to do so before communicating with Melchert-Dinkel.

A state Court of Appeals panel will hear oral arguments in the case Wednesday. The judges have 90 days to rule.

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