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Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:28 pm
Defending clients charged with drug-induced homicide or similar crimes related to another person’s overdose death can be incredibly challenging for defense attorneys. However, there are several legal arguments and strategies that may help achieve a fair outcome or even an acquittal in some circumstances. This article provides an overview of key considerations when building a defense in overdose death cases.
The specific charges will vary by jurisdiction, but often include:
The main elements the prosecution must prove are: 1) the defendant provided or administered drugs to the victim, 2) the drugs caused the victim’s death, and 3) the defendant acted recklessly, with criminal negligence or extreme indifference to human life. The required mental state and how direct the causation must be varies.
Building an effective defense starts with thoroughly investigating the circumstances leading up to the victim’s death. Areas to explore include:
This can help identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop defense arguments.
Two key elements to challenge are the actus reus (guilty act) and mens rea (guilty mind). For actus reus, the defense can argue:
For mens rea, the defense can argue the defendant:
If the investigation does not support disputing actus reus or mens rea, the defense may still argue the circumstances do not rise to the level of reckless indifference required for murder charges versus lower manslaughter or negligence charges.
The defendant’s own drug addiction can also be leveraged as part of the defense:
Framing the defendant as struggling with disease of addiction can help reduce moral culpability in the eyes of judges and juries.
Even if the defendant directly provided drugs, the defense can highlight uncertainties over whether those drugs actually caused the death, including:
Expert witnesses like pathologists, toxicologists and doctors can testify about these issues undermining proof of causation.
Defense attorneys also have several options to suppress potentially damaging evidence:
Getting key evidence thrown out can significantly impact the prosecution’s ability to prove their case.
Even if a conviction occurs, the defense should present mitigating factors at sentencing, such as:
This can help secure a less severe sentence depending on applicable laws.
Securing a plea deal to lesser charges may be the best option if the evidence is strongly against the defendant. Defense counsel can argue:
Supervised probation, drug court and suspended sentences are potential compromises, even on manslaughter pleas.
While vigorously defending their client, attorneys should also express compassion for the victim and acknowledge the profound loss to their loved ones. Showing empathy, where genuine, can build rapport with judges and juries.
Overdose death cases involve two lives tragically cut short – the victim’s and the defendant’s. Defense counsel plays a crucial role in ensuring fairness, proportional punishment and opportunities for redemption. With care, preparation and strategic legal arguments, just outcomes or reasonable compromises are often achievable.
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