I heard about this William Melchert-Dinkel creep on Fifth Estate. I appear to have already set the tone for this story. His deal is he is fascinated with suicide and hangings. So, he logs on to chat rooms and finds depressed folk who look like they’re on the edge. He then pretends to be a female emergency room nurse who has seen one too many botched suicides and tells suicidal folk that hanging is the best way to end it. Then he convinces the real suicidal person that he also wants to kill himself, and they should do it together via webcam! Nobody followed him up on the webcam part, but at least two people did follow through on their plan.
Now, the disgusting little creep is on trial, and his attorney is trying to say that although his actions are disgusting, they’re not a crime because they’re under free speech. How does that even work in a place that has a law against aiding in or advising suicide? Telling people “hanging is the best way, this is how you position the rope” is advising suicide, yes? Do you have to be sitting beside the person? How come because it was across the net, it’s so much harder to understand?
I have three problems with the defence’s attempt to save this pathetic human being from meeting up with Bubba. First, the attorney says that he did not imminently incite these people to kill themselves. Next, he says that the people he spoke to about this were already thinking about it, so you can’t blame him for doing what they were already thinking about doing. The final crock is to say that they were the ones who ultimately did the deed. How did his attorney put it? “There needs to be some respect for the autonomy of these two individuals.”
First off, um, one of the people who killed themselves did it two hours after her last communication with this guy, a communication that I’m sure was full of instructions on how to end it all. It’s not like she waited a month after talking to him. I know it didn’t happen five minutes after, but the person had to get to the bridge and jump, so I don’t know how long that would have taken. It seems pretty immediate to me.
Next, Of course he spoke to people who were already thinking about killing themselves. If I met up with someone who said “Hey, I was an ER nurse and I’ve seen lots of suicides go wrong. If you’re going to do yourself in, you should hang yourself. I’ll tell you what kind of rope you should get. Why don’t you do it next week and we can do it together over the net?” I would think they were on crack and promptly walk away. Why? Because I have no desire to take my own life.
Every fraudster under the sun targets his/her victims because s/he has a feeling that this one will make a good mark. They’re either vulnerable, stupid, or both. It doesn’t make their frauds any less criminal.
And finally, in every other case of fraud, the person willingly hands over their money or whatever the con artist is after. The con artist doesn’t have a gun to their head. If he did, it wouldn’t be a con job, it would be a robbery. So do we have to have some respect for the autonomy of the defrauded? Is fraud suddenly not a crime because people gave whatever they gave the fraudster of their own free will? Sure it was under false pretenses, but they still did it with no duress.
I would never say that a person who commits suicide had no part in the decision to end their life. Of course, at the end of it all, the only one who can save you is you. But there is no reason why what this guy did shouldn’t be a crime. He lied to these people, conning them into thinking he was going to do it too, and helping them plan it. When there is a law against aiding in or advising someone in committing suicide, this seems like a no-brainer.
The judge has 20 days to think this over. I hope he agrees with me.