Aiding suicide … with words?

The World

A former nurse appears in court in Minnesota this morning charged with two counts of aiding suicide. His weapon? Words. For years, William Melchert-Dinkel, 47, allegedly spent hours in online chat rooms with suicide themes, posing as a young female nurse and befriending vulnerable people contemplating suicide. He encouraged them to end their own lives, gave them tips on how to do it, and entered into suicide pacts with some — pacts police say he never intended to keep. At least two of the people he advised took their own lives — a 32-year-old British man in 2005, and an 18-year-old college student in Canada in 2008. Now Melchert-Dinkel is being charged with their deaths.

We talk to Celia Blay, the 65-year-old British grandmother who first began to unravel Melchert-Dinkel’s secret online life four years ago.

We also speak with Jeff Rosen, a professor of law at George Washington University, about the sticky legal issues this case brings up surrounding free speech and the Internet.

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