A Chicago-area man has been sentenced to 18 years after the deaths of four of his customers due to overdose. The statute under which he was charged is meant to hold drug dealers accountable for the overdose deaths caused by their products. While the law makes sense in some ways, it fails to account for the millions of opioid deaths caused by pharmaceutical companies who lied about their product, facilitated its entry into the black market, and profited in the range of billions from the lives they destroyed. In some cases, these executive drug dealers are facing racketeering charges for knowingly funneling thousands of doses to locations with small populations. The orders to these locations were so large that even if every member of the community had a prescription, it would still be too much. These orders were, of course, diverted to the black market. Executives have faced criminal prosecutions based on what they knew or should have known about the orders. Nonetheless, not one of them is facing a first-degree reckless homicide charge.
Understanding the Law
The Chicago man has been charged under Wisconsin Statutes 940.02. The relevant portion of the statute reads as follows:
(2) Whoever causes the death of another human being under any of the following circumstances is guilty of a Class C felony:
(a) By manufacture, distribution or delivery, in violation of s. 961.41, of a controlled substance included in schedule I or II under ch. 961, of a controlled substance analog of a controlled substance included in schedule I or II under ch. 961 or of ketamine or flunitrazepam, if another human being uses the controlled substance or controlled substance analog and dies as a result of that use. This paragraph applies:
- Whether the human being dies as a result of using the controlled substance or controlled substance analog by itself or with any compound, mixture, diluent or other substance mixed or combined with the controlled substance or controlled substance analog.
- Whether or not the controlled substance or controlled substance analog is mixed or combined with any compound, mixture, diluent or other substance after the violation of s. 961.41 occurs.
- To any distribution or delivery described in this paragraph, regardless of whether the distribution or delivery is made directly to the human being who dies. If possession of the controlled substance included in schedule I or II under ch. 961, of the controlled substance analog of the controlled substance included in schedule I or II under ch. 961 or of the ketamine or flunitrazepam is transferred more than once prior to the death as described in this paragraph, each person who distributes or delivers the controlled substance or controlled substance analog in violation of s. 961.41 is guilty under this paragraph.
The relevant elements of the statute have been highlighted. As you can see, there is nothing in the statute that precludes pharmaceutical executives from being charged with reckless homicide for illegally marketing their substances and then facilitating the sale on the black market. Because the pharmaceutical executives a) manufactured the substance b) marketed the substance as less addictive, c) encouraged doctors to overprescribe the substance d) filled excessive orders in small rural populations that were diverted to pill mills, the government could easily charge these executives under reckless homicide statutes. Instead, however, they have been charged under racketeering statutes. This is likely because the charges have been filed by the federal (and not state) governments.
It remains to be seen whether a pharmaceutical executive whose policies resulted in innumerable and uncountable deaths will face the same charges as some street-level drug dealer who at last count tallied four.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing homicide charges related to drugs, call the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.