FINAL EXIT NETWORK APPEALS MINNESOTA
CONVICTION TO U.S. SUPREME COURT
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Final Exit Network has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a 2015 Minnesota conviction, saying Minnesota violated its First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech. The Florida-based non-profit corporation, Final Exit Network, Inc., was convicted in Hastings, Minnesota in 2015 on a charge of assisting in a suicide. The proof at trial, however, established that Final Exit Network’s volunteer Exit Guides did not assist Doreen Dunn, 57, an Apple Valley, MN resident, in her self-deliverance. In keeping with Final Exit Network’s usual practices, they only instructed her on the process.
The Supreme Court of Minnesota redefined the word assist to prohibit speech that enables a suicide. Final Exit Network argues in its petition for review, docketed in the Supreme Court of the United States on Tuesday, June 13, that no American court has ever stretched the word “assist” to prohibit pure speech, without any conduct.
The Network’s petition in the United States Supreme Court emphasizes the information the Network gave Dunn “is readily available in bookstores, libraries, and online and is depicted in movies, documentaries, and articles of every sort,” and Minnesota may not make it a crime to repeat this information. The Network’s petition takes pains to clearly define the difference between the Minnesota case and the recent case of Michelle Carter, a teenager who was convicted in Massachusetts last week of involuntary manslaughter for causing the suicide of her boyfriend through text messages and phone calls in which she clearly encouraged him, shaming him into staying in a vehicle as he was dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Carter case has alarmed free speech advocates. The ACLU of Massachusetts, for instance, issued a statement that “Ms. Carter’s conviction could chill important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved ones across the Commonwealth.” Robert Rivas, Final Exit Network’s general counsel, who defended the Network at the Minnesota trial and authored the Network’s petition in the U.S. Supreme Court, disagreed. The Massachusetts court found that Carter could be convicted if her “conduct caused the victim's death.” The court ruled that at trial, Carter’s “verbal conduct” would have to be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have “caused” her 18-year-old boyfriend’s death by “overcoming any independent will to live he might have had.” “The requirement of ‘causation’ in the Massachusetts case makes all the difference in the world,” Rivas said. “Final Exit Network was not convicted of ‘causing’ Ms. Dunn’s death.” The Network’s petition for U.S. Supreme Court review said the instructions to the jury in the Final Exit Network case “made no reference to causation as an element of the crime,” and no “evidence of causation was introduced at trial.” The evidence at Final Exit Network’s trial showed that its volunteers never solicit or encourage a “suicide,” and they check and double-check many times before a member exits to ensure that the member’s choice is being made freely and competently by the member alone. Members of Final Exit Network are not even accepted into the Exit Guide program unless they first establish they are suffering intolerably from an irremediable condition.
For further information, contact Final Exit Network’s general counsel, Robert Rivas, in Tallahassee, Florida, at 850-591-1492 or email@example.com.
Read complete text of the Petition submitted for review to the
U.S. Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Docket #16-1479
Media: Contact our General Counsel for comment.
FEN General Counsel
Robert Rivas, Attorney