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November 19, 2018

"Drug-Induced Homicide Defense Toolkit"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new document now available via SSRN and authored by Valena Beety, Alex Kreit, Jeremiah Goulka and Leo Beletsky.  Here is its abstract:

In response to the growing opioid crisis, many prosecutors are treating overdose deaths as homicides.  Since 2010, drug-induced homicide prosecutions have increased at least threefold.  Criminal defense attorneys and defendants' families have asked for help in understanding these cases and how to defend them.  This Toolkit is an effort to provide that help.

And here is an introductory paragraph from the first part of the document:

This Toolkit is intended to serve as an informational guide for defense counsel and other interested parties working to mount a defense for individuals charged with drug-induced homicide or similar crimes resulting from overdoses.  The creation of this toolkit was spurred by two related trends: (1) information from parents, news reports, and other sources about pervasively inadequate defense being provided to many individuals charged with these crimes, and (2) widespread efforts by prosecutors to disseminate information and tools that aid other prosecutors and law enforcement in investigating and bringing drug-induced homicide and related charges, including presentations at conferences, continuing legal education modules, webinars, and the like.

November 19, 2018 at 09:58 AM | Permalink


Opiod drugs are rippling thru criminal prosecutions in many and sometimes unexpected ways. I have worked on DUI cases involving heroin and fentanyl instead of alcohol. CUrrently, I am working with a Lexington defense lawyer on a case pending in Morgan County, Kentucky, where the defendant is charged with 2 counts of First Degree Wanton Murder (driver had oxycodone and hydrocodone in her blood), arising out of a car versus motorcycle accident, where the 2 passengers on the motorcycle were killed. The Kentucky State Police screwed up the investigation. First, they said that the point of impact was across the center line, on the motorcycle's side, based on skid marks at the scene. The Black Box on the defendant's car shows that the brakes were not applied during the 5 seconds before the air bags deployed upon impact, so there could not be any skid marks. A photo from Google Earth shows that those skids marks existed at that location more than a year before the accident! How can the prosecution prove a murder case when they cannot even show which side of the center line the accident occurred on? The defendant has a traumatic brain injury from the accident, so she has no memory about what happened, and there are no living witnesses. Also, the defendant was given fentanyl in the life-flight helicopter to a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, which does not show up in the toxicology from the same blood draw. This woman has been a pre-trial detainee in jail for almost years, because she cannot post the $250,000 full cash bond. Trial is scheduled to begin December 6th. This mountains judge doesn't grant directed verdicts of acquittal either.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 19, 2018 1:15:06 PM

If the stories are to be believed nearly all defendants get a "pervasively inadequate defense " and not just drug induced homicide defendants.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 19, 2018 4:28:42 PM

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