Maryland Prosecutors Filing Charges in Overdose Cases

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As the opioid death toll mounts, Maryland prosecutors are bringing charges of manslaughter and even murder against those who are supplying users with fatal doses, the Baltimore Sun reports. The move remains rare. Prosecutors in seven counties have brought such charges, says the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association. “They’re dealing in death,” said Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington. “It’s our job to hold them accountable.” Not everyone agrees. Critics say holding dealers criminally responsible for overdoses assigns the blame wrongly and won’t stem the death toll. “Southern Maryland has been hit very hard in this opioid crisis,” said Matthew Connell  of the St. Mary’s County public defender’s office. “It’s a tragic thing. … But it’s not murder.”

At least 21 people have been charged with manslaughter in overdose cases since 2014, the Sun found in a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys. Most were charged in the past two years. A Queen Anne’s County judge convicted a man of manslaughter last month in the 2016 overdose death of a 23-year-old man. More drug-related manslaughter trials are scheduled in Queen Anne’s, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s counties. In St. Mary’s, the charges also include second-degree “depraved heart” murder. “You’re seeing people die and your natural reaction as a prosecutor is to want do something about it,” said Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin, president of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association. “There are some of us who feel that legally, that’s not an appropriate charge, and others who feel that it is.”

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