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Prosecutors: Encouraging suicide not free speech

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February 26, 2013 06:30 PM EST | AP

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MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors say a former Minnesota nurse convicted of going online and encouraging two people to kill themselves was not exercising his right to free speech.

Fifty-year-old William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. His attorney is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn those convictions, saying Melchert-Dinkel's actions were protected, and that he did not directly participate in the suicides of an English man and a Canadian woman.

In documents filed Tuesday, Rice County prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel played an integral role, giving the victims detailed instructions.

Prosecutors also argue the state's statute barring assisted suicide is constitutional. They say the direct harm to victims and the state's interest to protect vulnerable people warrant that the law be upheld.

Melchert-Dinkel is free pending appeal.