Court of Appeals Files Decision in Dakota County Assisted Suicide Case - Final Exit Network
Dakota County Attorney James C. Backstrom announced that on September 30, 2013 the Minnesota Court of Appeals filed a decision which affirmed the decision of the 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 assisting suicide statute are “facially overbroad” and infringe upon speech that is considered protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
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 (FEN), Lawrence Egbert, Jerry Dincin, Roberta 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 on May 30, 2007. The originally autopsy had listed the cause of Doreen Dunn’s death as coronary artery disease. However, the investigation into her death was reopened in 2010 when the Apple Valley Police Department received information from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that in the months leading up to her death Doreen Dunn had become of member of Final Exit Network and had numerous communications related to her medical condition and taking of her life with multiple FEN representatives, including Roberta Massey and Jerry 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, Apple Valley Police Department also discovered evidence indicating that Lawrence Egbert (FEN Medical Director) and Jerry 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 Thomas Goodwin for lack of sufficient evidence, which the State did not appeal.
Backstrom commented, “We disagree with the Court of Appeals decision in this case and will be seeking further review of it by the Minnesota Supreme Court. We believe the legal reasoning used by the Court of Appeals in this case conflicts with legal reasoning used by the Court of Appeals in a previous case involving a prosecution for assisted suicide.”
The previous case, State v. Melchert-Dinkel, is currently being reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
If you have any questions, contact James Backstrom at 651-438-4440.