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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Supreme Court will consider the case of a national right-to-die group accused of playing a role in the 2007 suicide of an Apple Valley woman.
The high court agreed to hear Dakota County prosecutors' appeal of a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling in September that a state law prohibiting advising or encouraging suicide was unconstitutional on free speech grounds, the Star Tribune reported Friday ( http://strib.mn/JhC7zY). The Appeals Court, however, sent charges of aiding and abetting suicide against the Florida-based group Final Exit Network and two members back to a district court for trial.
The Supreme Court also agreed in an order dated Dec. 17 to hear the cross-appeal of Final Exit Network, which says all of the charges are unconstitutional. The high court did not set a date for oral arguments.
The high court also stayed all proceedings in the Final Exit case pending its ruling in the separate case of William Melchert-Dinkel, of Faribault, an ex-nurse who was convicted in 2011 of "advising and encouraging" the suicides of a man in England and a teenager in Canada. The Court of Appeals upheld his conviction last year. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May.
Robert Rivas, an attorney for Final Exit, said the group believes the Appeals Court decision was correct.
"But I'm glad the Supreme Court is going to make the final decision," Rivas said Thursday. "I think that the Court of Appeals decision is going to be affirmed. It'll be good to have it affirmed by an even higher court."
Final Exit insists it acts within the law because it provides information but does not physically participate in suicides or provide equipment.
Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said he is glad the high court agreed to review the case.
"We continue to believe that the acts of aiding, advising and encouraging someone to take their own life should be prohibited and subject to prosecution under Minnesota law," he said in a statement.
Rivas said he wouldn't be surprised if the case eventually goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"From my point of view, there are six other states that have unconstitutional rules like the state of Minnesota," Rivas said. "To have the U.S. Supreme Court rule (for Final Exit) would invalidate all of them. I would be very happy about that."
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com