The opiate crisis is a serious problem for the entire country. Massachusetts is no exception as overdoses are on the rise, the state is looking at new ways to combat the issue. One of those ways, is that prosecutors have begun to charge drug dealers with manslaughter. The prosecutors hope that by holding drug dealers responsible for fatal overdoses it will bring justice to the families and hopefully reduce future overdoses.
One of those drug dealers being charged with manslaughter was Jesse Carillo. Carillo was charged with manslaughter and convicted for providing heroin to another student who died. After the conviction, the defendant appealed the case, and the case was finally appealed to the state's highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court. (SJC).
The defendant Carillo claimed that the prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to support a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The Supreme Judicial Court overturned the conviction citing that the selling of heroin will lead to the likelihood of an overdose, but not every drug sale will lead to an overdose. The prosecutor must provide evidence showing that the defendant knew or should have known that the drug sale would create a high degree of substantial harm such as overdose or death.
In the end, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned Carillo's conviction in this case, but this issue is far from over. The Court in its decision added, should the prosecutor be able to prove a future defendant knew that the heroin was particularly potent such as being laced with fentanyl or knew that a victim was particularly vulnerable due to factors such as his age, or if the defendant failed to seek help after seeing the victim overdose, the SJC may not overturn those convictions.
So it depends on the facts of the case. The SJC did rule in favor of the defendant Carillo in this case, however, future drug dealers can certainly be charged and their convictions upheld should the facts be different.