State v. Melchert-DinkelAnnotate this Case
Defendant was convicted of two counts of aiding suicide in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.215(1), which makes it illegal to intentionally “advise, encourage, or assist another in taking the other’s own life.” Defendant had responded to posts on suicide websites by encouraging the victims to hang themselves, falsely claiming that he would also commit suicide. Defendant appealed, arguing that section 609.215(1) violated the First Amendment. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the statute prohibited speech that was unprotected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State may prosecute Defendant for assisting another in committing suicide but not for encouraging or advising another to commit suicide, and thus the words “advises” and “encourages” must be severed from the statute as unconstitutional; and (2) because the district court did not make a specific finding on whether Defendant assisted the victims’ suicides, the case must be remanded.