First-Degree Reckless Homicide – State v. Perner
Just as in any other state, there are various degrees of murder in the state of Wisconsin. First-degree reckless homicide is charged when an individual does not intend to but recklessly causes the death of another human being under circumstances that illustrate a complete disregard for human life. This can include causing the death of another through the use of certain controlled substances. The controlled substance can be used by itself or in conjunction with other things.
In State v. Mitchell A. Perner, the defendant called the police early in the morning on May 21, 2010, claiming that his girlfriend had overdosed on drugs. When the police asked what she had overdosed on, the defendant stated he believed it was “some sort of painkillers.” He went on to say it was painkillers that someone gave her. When police arrived on the scene, the defendant maintained that he did not know of any illegal drugs in the situation, aside from oxytocin and marijuana.
Some time later, the defendant admitted he bought heroin from Cory Koopman. The defendant admitted that, after using the heroin, he had realized it was very potent but gave some to his girlfriend anyway. She allegedly asked for more that same night. At this point, the defendant reached out to Koopman and obtained more heroin. Once the defendant got home, he kept half the heroin and gave the other half to his girlfriend. She subsequently overdosed and died.
The jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree reckless homicide. The defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and argued that his actions did not amount to a “delivery.” Instead, he insisted that he was merely a “joint possessor” of the heroin with his girlfriend.
The court rejected the defendant’s argument that a delivery was not made. The law defines delivery as a transfer from one individual to another. Delivery does not need to be “construed in a commercial sense,” according to the court. A sale does not need to be made in order for a delivery to take place. Thus, when the defendant provided his girlfriend with the heroin, he essentially “delivered” it to her in contravention of Wisconsin law.
The Supreme Court also referenced the statute in State v. Patterson, which states that “first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of a controlled substance was created as a specific type of criminal homicide to prosecute anyone who provides a fatal dose of a controlled substance.” In fact, that statute was designed to address the very situation that was present in this case.
The defendant is now serving a 12-year prison sentence for supplying the heroin that caused the death of his girlfriend in 2010.
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