ST. PAUL, Minn., Dec. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In a legal case testing whether Final Exit Network is allowed to teach about self-deliverance, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota has upheld the volunteer group's 2015 conviction for "assisting" in a "suicide."
Final Exit Network, Inc. — the corporation only, not any individual — was found guilty on May 14, 2015 of a felony, "assisting" in a "suicide," and appealed for the Court of Appeals to reverse the conviction.
"This court was just one step on the appellate ladder," said the Network's president, Janis Landis. "Whether we won or lost in this court, we always knew the case would have to go to the Supreme Court of Minnesota, and maybe beyond. So now we'll step up to the next court. We're in this to stay until we obtain justice."
The evidence at the trial in Dakota County, Minnesota showed that Exit Guides and other Network personnel gave information and support to the decedent, Doreen Dunn, 57. The evidence showed the Network volunteers provided no physical assistance in Ms. Dunn's death on May 30, 2007, but only exercised their First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech.
The jury was instructed that it was required to convict the corporation if its personnel gave Ms. Dunn instructions about how to terminate her suffering. "Once that jury instruction was given, we had little or no hope of being found 'not guilty' by the jury," said Robert Rivas, the Network's general counsel.
The trouble for the Network in the trial court and the Court of Appeals stemmed from an unrelated case involving a nurse from Faribault, Minnesota named William Francis Melchert-Dinkel. In his case, the Supreme Court of Minnesota held in 2014 that one could be convicted of "assisting" in a "suicide" for communicating "words" that "enabled" a "suicide."
In an 18-page opinion released on Monday, December 19, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court's jury instruction was properly based on the precedent established in the Melchert-Dinkel decision. The Court of Appeals repeatedly said it had no authority to overrule the Supreme Court of Minnesota. Therefore, the court held, it was compelled to affirm the Network's conviction.
The trial court last year sentenced the corporation to pay the maximum $33,000 fine. Though a conviction for "assisting" in a "suicide" could carry a 15-year prison sentence for an individual, nobody could receive a prison sentence because only the corporation was tried and convicted.
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SOURCE Final Exit Network