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An Overdose Death Is Not Murder: Why Drug-Induced Homicide Laws Are Counterproductive and Inhumane

How are these laws hurting people?

James’ Story

Jobs for people with a felony on their record are hard to come by, so when 36-years-old James Linder lost his job at a bakery, his employment opportunities felt especially bleak. James had recently been released from prison. He needed money and turned to the only option he knew: selling small amounts of drugs. He did it infrequently but made enough to take his son for a haircut and help out his sister.

On January 30, 2015, he sold three packets of heroin to Cody Hillier. Cody’s girlfriend, Danielle Barzyk, stayed in the car. She never met James. Later that day, Danielle died of an overdose. James was charged with drug-induced homicide and sentenced by an all-white jury in rural Illinois. In this video, James shares his story from a federal prison, where he is serving 28 years.

"He still has a whole life here. He has a son to raise. He needs to get out."

Amy’s Story

On August 10, 2014, Amy Shemberger did what people who use drugs do every day – she took a ride to score heroin for herself and her boyfriend, Peter Kucinski. On the ride home, Amy snorted one of the bags of heroin. When she got back, Peter asked for his portion. He was having severe alcohol withdrawal and needed the heroin to feel better.

After snorting a $10 bag of heroin, Peter stopped breathing and Amy called 911. In the same day, Amy lost her boyfriend of 18 years to a fatal overodse and custody of their 5-year-old son. Two months later, Amy was charged with drug-induced homicide. In this video, Amy shares her story from prison where she is serving a seven-year sentence.

"She called 911. She did what she thought was right. And yet she was charged with a violent Class X felony called 'drug-induced homicide."

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