Updated: 04/04/2013 7:22 PM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen
Minnesota prosecutors said Thursday that they are appealing a judge's decision that the state's law against "advising" suicide is unconstitutional.
The appeal comes in the case against four members of national right-to-die group Final Exit Network who were charged last year in the 2007 death of Doreen Dunn, an Apple Valley woman who killed herself in her home. Prosecutors argued that defendants not only supported Dunn's decision to kill herself, but provided her with information and support to follow through.
Defense attorneys argued that while the state may bar someone from "assisting" a suicide, it is unconstitutional for the state to ban "advising" or "encouraging" a suicide - as stated in the Minnesota statute - because that is pure speech. Prosecutors have argued the statute is narrowly worded so advocates of suicide may freely speak their minds but that those who "intentionally" assist, encourage or advise suicide are breaking the law.
Last month, Dakota County Judge Karen Asphaug found Minnesota's law as it pertains to advising suicide is unconstitutionally overbroad. She also narrowed the construction of the term "encouraging" to include only physical acts or language that promote or urge someone to commit suicide.
Based on that finding, Asphaug dismissed charges against the group's former president, Thomas Goodwin, but kept most of the charges against the other defendants intact.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said his office will not appeal Goodwin's dismissal, but will contest the ruling as it relates to the group itself and to defendants Lawrence Egbert, 85, of Baltimore, and Roberta Massey, 67, of Bear, Del. Defendant Jerry Dincin died last week, and the charges against him have been dismissed.
Robert Rivas, Final Exit Network general counsel, said the group welcomes the appeal.
"We look forward to obtaining a higher-court precedent along the lines of the trial court's ruling," Rivas said.
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