The defendant, is twenty-two years of age, an admitted heroin user and, in all probability, an addict. At the time of this occurrence, he was living in an apartment over a bar located on Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, New York. On September 9, 1971, at approximately 8:00 p.m., the victim was a young girl of nineteen years of age, visited him at his apartment. The defendant observed that she was under the influence of drugs. She was high on ‘downs’, and, as a matter of fact, ‘she could not walk or talk straight’. They talked for a while and then she fell asleep on the bed. He then left the room and went out at about 9:00 to 9:30 p.m. to purchase some pizza in a restaurant.
When he returned, he found the young girl trying to inject heroin into her arm with a hypodermic syringe and needle. She was apparently having difficulty, and he then proceeded to assist her, and actually injected the heroin into her arm. They then had some food and she went back to sleep. She was lying on the bed in a semiconscious condition. Shortly thereafter she started to regurgitate, and he placed her on the floor. He watched television for a while and then went to sleep.
Shortly thereafter his roommate requested of the that he accompany the roommate’s girlfriend home. He did so and returned between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. and found the victim still on the floor sleeping. Defendant then went to bed and shortly thereafter he heard the victim make a ‘gurgling noise’. He then applied mouth to mouth resuscitation and was unable to revive her.
The deputy medical examiner who performed the autopsy stated the cause of death to be acute and chronic intravenous narcotism. It was his opinion that heroin had been injected into the body of the deceased intravenously and a short period of time before death.
Defendant was indicted of injection of a narcotic drug, manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide. Defendant move for the inspection of the grand jury minutes upon which the indictment was based and to dismiss counts two and three of the indictment.
The court rejected the motion filed by the defendant. According to the court, in assessing the criminal responsibility of the defendant, it is incumbent upon the trier of the facts to weigh and consider the nature and purpose of the defendant’s conduct and the nature and degree of the risk consciously disregarded by the defendant and all the circumstances known to the defendant in acting.
In the instant case, there are a number of factual issues for a jury to decide that are relevant to the determination as to whether the defendant’s acts constituted a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death, namely:
(1) Was the injection intravenous or subcutaneous?
(2) Was the deceased ‘high’ on barbiturates at the time the defendant injected her with heroin?
(3) Did defendant know, or should be have known, under the circumstances, that the deceased was ‘high’ on barbiturates at the time of injecting her with heroin?
(4) Did the defendant supply the deceased with the heroin or the implements to administer the heroin?
(5) Did defendant know, or should he have known, under the circumstances, the quantity or quality of heroin he was injecting into deceased’s body?
(6) Did the defendant know, or should he have known, under the circumstances, whether the deceased had developed a tolerance for heroin?
(7) Did the defendant know, or should he have known, under the circumstances, whether the quantity he injected was the deceased’s regular dosage?
From a careful study and analysis of the majority of prevailing legal precedents in the United States as well as the medical studies made and statistical data compiled, one can reasonably conclude that the consumption of heroin in unknown strength is dangerous to human life, and the administering of such a drug is inherently dangerous and does carry a high probability that death will occur. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the injection of heroin into the bloodstream of a human being constitutes a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death. It is, therefore, proper for the triers of the fact to determine whether or not the aforesaid defendant’s alleged actions constitute the indictable offense of homicide, and this issue should not be resolved by the court as a matter of law.
Upon inspecting the Grand Jury minutes and considering the totality of the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s conduct, the court therefore concludes that there was sufficient legal evidence before the Grand Jury to warrant an indictment for manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide.
Stephen Billkis and Associates has top-caliber New York Heroin Lawyers to assist you and your loved ones in a drug related cases. It has offices within New York Metropolitan area including Corona, New York.