In a controversial decision, Christopher Sharod Massena was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in a federal prison for supplying a drug called fentanyl to Christian Hernandez who died as a result of an overdose of the drug. The controversy surrounds not just the verdict, but also the judge's ruling to not allow the defense's argument into the courtroom.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the victim thought he was purchasing heroin, which is far less potent than fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is said to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. Massena's defense team, on the other hand, argued that not only did Massena not intend for the drug to kill Hernandez, but also that Hernandez, a heroin addict, was partly to blame for his own death. However, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra, refused to allow the defense's argument into the trial citing that addicts cannot be blamed for their own death.
Evidence Points to Drug Dealer's Relationship With Overdose Victim
The major piece of evidence in the case was an exchange of text messages between Massena and Hernandez. The messages pointed to the fact that Hernandez had been purchasing drugs from Massena during the month leading up to his fatal overdose. Authorities used this evidence to monitor Massena who was eventually arrested on a separate charge after selling fentanyl and heroin to an undercover officer.
In addition to Massena's prison sentence, Judge Marra also ordered him to pay $5,000 to the victim's parents. Massena's lawyers say they plan to appeal the conviction and sentencing.
Future of Drug Dealers Being Charged With Overdose Deaths
Because of the ruling, this case may open up the doors for more drug dealers to be charged criminally for fatal overdoses that resulted from drugs they supplied. These individuals could therefore not only be charged for illegally selling drugs, but also be held liable when the person they sell to dies as a result.
Criminal charges of any nature are a serious matter. A criminal defense attorney should be involved as soon as possible to help protect his or her client's rights during the investigation process.
McMahon, P. (2016, December 02). Drug dealer gets 30 years in prison for supplying fentanyl in fatal overdose. Retrieved December 05, 2016, from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-fentanyl-dealer-death-20161202-story.html
Stapleton, C. (2016, August 5). Who is to blame in heroin-related death - dealer or addict? Retrieved December 06, 2016, from http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime--law/who-blame-heroin-related-death-the-dealer-the-addict/JiEpE5iOqbIyYIa5UowDsM/