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Larry Cunningham on Convicting Drug Dealer for Overdose Death

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In the Media

Philip Seymour Hoffman autopsy is inconclusive
By Michael Muskal
Los Angeles Times
February 5, 2014

It is unclear under New York law whether any dealer can be charged with homicide in connection with Hoffman's death if it is ruled an accidental overdose.
"It is very difficult to convict a drug dealer for homicide as a result of selling drugs to someone who later dies," said Larry Cunningham, a former prosecutor who serves as associate academic dean and teaches criminal law at St. John's University School of Law in New York.

"The state would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the dealer's drugs were, in fact, the ones that caused death and that death was foreseeable," he said. "Second, the state would have to prove that the dealer intentionally, recklessly or negligently gave the drugs to the person. In other words, that the dealer meant for the person to die, knew there was a high risk of death or should have known that death was possible. This is a very difficult standard to prove."

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