DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin and his prosecutors are now 2-0 when it comes to prosecuting the relatively new charge of drug-induced homicide.
Unfortunately, Berlin said, the first two DuPage cases are likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nabbing those peddling heroin in the suburbs.
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A jury deliberated for roughly four hours Monday before finding Jenniefer Nere, 34, of Summit, guilty of giving her friend Augustina Taylor, 32, of Wheaton, the heroin that killed her almost immediately after she injected it.
According to state law, which went into effect on July 22, 2011, drug-induced homicide is committed when someone delivers "a controlled substance to another, and any person's death is caused by the injection, inhalation, absorption, or ingestion of any amount of that controlled substance."
"I was pleased with the verdict, and I hope it sends the message that there are cons to drug dealing," Berlin said. "Whether you're doing it for business reasons or you're a small-time dealer just supporting your habit, there are consequences. When you're dealing with a dangerous drug like heroin, being responsible for the user's death is now a risk that comes with dealing this kind of drug."
Berlin said he doesn't support "stockpiling drug addicts in prison" because he doesn't believe they always get the treatment they need behind bars.
"Jennifer Nere is more than an addict," Berlin said. "She delivered a drug that killed someone. It's a harsh price to pay but look at the results of her actions."
Nere's attorney, David Gaughan, argued Nere's prosecution was a political ploy and suggested law enforcement should focus on the "scum of the earth" dealers rather than an addict who may have supplied another addict with the drug.
"Every case is different but the philosophy we have in narcotic cases is to try to work our way all the way up the (supply) chain," Berlin said. "Unfortunately, we're not always successful. It really depends on cooperation of drug dealers."
In May, DuPage County Judge Blanche Hill Fawell convicted and sentenced 26-year-old Malcolm Brown of Chicago to 10 years in prison for selling heroin to a Carol Stream man who then shared it with his friend who overdosed and died.
The Carol Stream man immediately led police to Brown to avoid the homicide charge himself.
Brown has since appealed the sentence and Fawell has denied his request to reconsider the prison term.
"I don't look at the charge as a tool. It's a crime. The law is on the books, and my job is to enforce the law. If the facts are there and we can prove it, we'll charge it," Berlin said. "I'm not charging drug-induced homicide cases for any political reason or to create a social change."
The social change Berlin said he would like to see would come from the public forums hosted by his office and area police departments, in addition to drug-awareness programs in schools.
"We've made a lot of progress and the awareness is far greater than it was just a few years ago," Berlin said. "Unfortunately, we're only going to see more and more of these (drug-induced homicide) cases because heroin use is so rampant. People need to understand heroin is dangerous, and it's use and distribution has consequences."