HASTINGS, Minn., March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – A judge dismissed all charges against former Final Exit Network president Ted Goodwin, who was charged last year with "advising, encouraging or assisting" in the "suicide" of a member.
Doreen Dunn, 57, exited in 2007. Goodwin was not involved in Dunn's self-deliverance. He was charged with a felony and a misdemeanor solely because he was president of Final Exit Network at the time.
Judge Karen Asphaug ruled the Minnesota statute against "advising, encouraging or assisting" in a suicide violated Goodwin's First Amendment rights because Goodwin only exercised his right to free speech in his actions at the forefront of the right-to-die movement.
In May 2012, the non-profit corporation Final Exit Network, Inc., Goodwin and three other volunteers were charged in a 17-count indictment in rural Dakota County, just south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Judge Asphaug dismissed the only two counts against Goodwin. She also dismissed two out of three charges against a Final Exit Network case coordinator, Roberta Massey, of Bear, Delaware. Thus, five of the 17 charges were dismissed in her orders, entered on March 22.
The judge denied motions to dismiss the charges against the organization and another former president of the organization, Jerry Dincin, of Chicago, and its former medical director, Lawrence Egbert, of Baltimore.
The defendants had all argued that the Minnesota statute on "advising, encouraging or assisting in a suicide" was unconstitutional. The judge found the statute unconstitutional only "as applied" to Goodwin, but not "as applied" to the others. In Massey's case, the judge dismissed two counts for a "lack of probable cause," since Massey had never personally traveled to Minnesota to act as an Exit Guide in connection with the Dunn exit.
FEN, Dincin, Egbert, and Massey plan to seek to appeal the rulings against their motions to dismiss the indictment. Otherwise, with their motions to dismiss the indictment denied, they may have to begin preparing for a trial on the charges against them. In either event, they will raise the First Amendment issues again and again. The judge's ruling is not final.
Goodwin, the second president of FEN, served until 2009, when Dincin took over the post.
"I am personally gratified that the bold activism of Final Exit Network continues to ensure compassionate support of the suffering," Goodwin said. "But, just as importantly, we have been instrumental in the clarification of ill-conceived legislation, in multiple states, where the rights of all citizens to offer support to friends and loved ones has been held hostage at the most critical of times."
His lawyer, John Lundquist of the Minneapolis-based Fredrikson & Byron firm, said the judge's ruling was "a significant step in ensuring the right of free speech for the ongoing discussion about end-of life decisions in Minnesota."