Minn. prosecutors appeal ‘advising’ suicide ruling

Published 9:04 am Friday, April 5, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — 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.

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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.