Melchert-Dinkel Insanity Plea Not Likely To Succeed (But Did He Counsel Children In Taking Their Own Lives?)

Posted: November 5, 2010 in Crime & Punishment
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Defense counsel, Terry A. Watkins, moves this court, pursuant to Rule 20.02, subd. 1, of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, to appoint a medical examiner and order that a medical examination be conducted on the Defendent, William Francis Melchert-Dinkel, to determine if, because of mental illness or deficiency, the Defendant at the time of the commission of the offense charged was laboring under such a defect as not to know the nature of the act constituting the offense with which the Defendant is charged or that it was wrong.

Excerpt of Motion filed on behalf of William Melchert-Dinkel by attorney Terry A. Watkins relating to Rice County Court File No. 66-CR-10-1193

Given the litany of motions filed by attorney Terry A. Watkins relating to the case that is presently before the courts in Rice County, Minnesota in which his client, the Serial Suicide Killer, faces two counts of violating 609.215 subd. 1, Suicide – Aiding in relation to the deaths of Canadian Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough – formerly of Coventry in the UK, receiving zealous representation is certainly not an issue.

Watkins of course has thrown everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at the Minnesota courts by way of motions which include;

  • Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Probable Cause
  • Motion to Suppress Confessions, Admissions, or Statements in the Nature of Confessions Made by Defendant
  • Motion to Suppress Evidence Discovered as a Result of Confessions, Admissions, or Statements in the Nature of Confessions Made by Defendant (you have to love the “fruit of the poisonous tree” concept)
  • Demand for Hearing Pursuant to Ruule 8.03 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure
  • Motion to Dismiss for Vagueness and Overbreath of Minn. Stat. 609.215, as applied to Defendant’s conduct
  • Motion to Dismiss for Violations of Free Speech Protections
  • Affidavit of Service

At the end of the day, and despite all the posturing, it now appears that the case is going to come down to the following:

“Pursuant to Rule 9.02, subd. 1(3)(a), of Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, Defendant hereby notifies prosecuting attorney of his intention to assert a defense of mental illness or mental deficiency his intention to additionally rely upon the defense of not guilty.”

Ahh, the cherry on top of a cake of misdirection and avoidance of personal responsibility for his actions leading to the deaths of two people, one a young 18 year old university student with her whole life in front of her. When in doubt, pull an old standby out of the legal defense hat . . . I was crazy and did not know what I was doing.

Am I the only one experiencing a deja vu moment relating to Flip Wilson’s Geraldine character proclaiming that “the devil made me do it!”

As it stands, the intrepid Mr. Watkins faces what appears to be two daunting challenges or obstacles in relation to a defense of mental defect.

Right out of the gate is the fact that the State of Minnesota adheres to the M’Naghten rule in determining a defendant’s sanity.

For those who may not be familiar with the M’Naghten rule, it clearly states that, “Every man is to be presumed to be sane, and . . . that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party ACCUSED was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong. ”

In essence, the burden of proof relative to an insanity plea falls squarely on the shoulders of the defendant – in this case Melchert-Dinkel.

This leads directly into the second and likely most damning piece of evidence in terms of refuting a claim that Melchert-Dinkel “was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong” as it relates to satisfying the terms of legal insanity under the M’Naghten rule.

Specifically, pages 3 and 4 of the Criminal Complaint filed by the State of Minnesota in which the following is stated:

“Mr. Melchert-Dinkel did state that he thought assisting suicide was illegal, and that it was illegal in Minnesota. He agreed to allow officers to search his home and signed a waiver agreeing to the search of his computer. He admitted to entering into 10 to 11 suicide pacts online with individuals all over the world. He admitted he moved from advising suicides to encouraging suicide. He stated age and circumstances would determine whether or not he discussed suicide methods or encouraged suicide. He explained suicide pacts were made with those “most intense” on committing suicide. He noted others on line would catch on to the suicide encouragement and would post warnings. The warnings would be posted messages such as, Watch out, Li Dao is out to encourage people to die rather than help.” He again estimated he most likely encouraged dozens of persons to commit suicide and characterized it as the thrill of the chase. He could not be certain as to the numbers because the successful suicide was hard to verify and that there could be dozens, which he found to be a scary thought. He stated he only encouraged suicide and never told anyone to do it, but told them it was up to them. He admitted there have been cases where people he counseled to commit suicide have died and he encouraged them by telling them it was ok to let go, that they would be better in heaven, and that his caring nature went too far.”

No wonder his attorney Watkins has filed motions “to Suppress Confessions, Admissions, or Statements in the Nature of Confessions Made by Defendant” and “to Suppress Evidence Discovered as a Result of Confessions, Admissions, or Statements in the Nature of Confessions Made by Defendant (the “fruit of the poisonous tree” concept).”

Based on his own statements, it certainly seems to me that Melchert-Dinkel not only possessed the mental capacity to understand that his actions were illegal but, that he also understood the moral implications associated with his role in the “thrill of the chase” encouragement that he provided to his victims. This awakening was demonstrated by an earlier statement he gave to police that is referenced in the complaint in which he indicates that “he stopped the contacts and discussions after the holidays (referring to Christmas of 2008) due to moral, ethical and legal reasons.”

By the way, did you pick-up on his comment that “age and circumstances would determine whether or not he discussed suicide methods or encouraged suicide?” I have to admit that a chill ran up the back of my neck because whose to say that he did not come into contact with teenagers (children) who were under the age of majority. After all, didn’t he lie about his identity – which provides further proof that he clearly knew what he was doing was wrong.

The possibility alone that he engaged children on-line should at minimum spark debate as to whether or not Melchert-Dinkel is also a child predator, and thus should fall under the jurisdiction of the all-encompassing laws which exist to protect children. The fact that in the State’s complaint he admitted that “his (teenage) daughters had seen his discussions on the Internet and he had told them that his discussions were not right,” would seem to provide indisputable proof that he was interacting in some way either directly or indirectly with children.

What if one of the uncertain numbers to which he referred who may have committed suicide at his prompting, was a child of 15 or 16? Doesn’t this change the case considerably. Maybe the prosecution should investigate this possibility more closely? Maybe Melchert-Dinkel should save the State and the people, including the families of his victims the pain of a trial and plea bargain? It might make a good deal of sense from the defense standpoint because if it can be proven that he directly engaged with children over the Internet and, in a worse case scenario one of these children committed suicide, then he would likely be facing a far stiffer penalty.

Just as a side note, I have always believed that one should give serious pause when an answer to a question that wasn’t specifically asked is offered. The police as far as I know did not ask Melchert-Dinkel about the ages of the people with whom he was engaged over the Internet, yet he chose to freely offer that “age and circumstances” were a factor in his actions?

All this being said, and focusing again of the submission of an insanity plea, I am of the same mind as criminal profiler Pat Brown who contends that “Serial killers premeditate their homicides and work to cover up their acts clearly showing an understanding that he knows his actions are illegal.”

Based on the evidence provided, William Melchert-Dinkel clearly knew what he was doing, enjoyed what he was doing re his “thrill of the chase” comment and, understood that it was wrong from both a legal and moral standpoint.

Case closed . . . maybe? Next week I will review in detail the motions filed by the defense to suppress the Serial Suicide Killer’s confession and resulting evidence. Is there in fact a legal loophole through which Melchert-Dinkel can escape justice and the consequences of his actions?

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