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Should I get even with the drug dealer who killed my brother?

Dear Stanton,

My 39 year old brother died of a heroin overdose. He was not alone at the time. The man doing heroin with him didn't bother to call the authorities until 8 hours after my brother's death. By then the man had cleaned up the room, got rid of the needles which he supplied (he was a diabetic) and all paraphernalia. He was with him in the room when he slumped to the floor. My brother NEVER sleeps on the floor. The man said he thought my brother was just going to sleep on the floor suddenly. The detectives don't seem to want to bother with the case. Is there anything I can do to pressure them to investigate further? I believe this man saw my brother die and did nothing when he should have called the paramedics. He admitted to doing drugs with my brother but was not prosecuted. In addition, there was money missing from my brother's room. Yet they let this man go out of state. What would you do?


Dear Sherry:

Like you, I would not rest, but (1) your brother did take the drugs that killed him on his own, (2) the law is very reluctant to charge someone for NOT doing something (are you aware of the case where one young man witnessed another take a young girl into a men's room in a gambling casino, where he killed the girl, and the two young men went out gambling afterwards — with no legal consequences for the second young man, a UC Berkeley student?).

It is customary for people to shoot up together, and when one drops, for the others to abandon him/her, after robbing them — they figure, "he won't need his stereo and money now — it'll just go to his parents (or whoever) anyhow." This is a good reason not to be a heroin addict — the kinds of people you end up associating with.

Carroll O'Connor (the star of the TV series, "All in the Family") is one of many people who campaign to have the person who provided drugs to their son prosecuted (recall the efforts to do the same with Kathy Smith, who provided the drugs which John Belushi used to kill himself). I find this effort — which serves to locate the blame on one outside person for a lifetime of mistakes — immoral. Carroll O'Connor is relying on this slim reed to say that his son ruined his life because of someone other than himself and his son. I wouldn't attack O'Connor because his son killed himself with drugs — but he is very foolish to obsess about one drug dealer after the series of failures he had with his son.

At the same time, if I felt someone I loved was harmed or wronged by someone, I would never rest. The police cannot be relied on to solve anything complicated. You must prod them daily, and/or bring a civil suit against the other individual to recover the stolen property and make him pay. I take this approach in all enforcement/legal questions I deal with; you reminded me — I have to call the police right now to.


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