It’s interesting how memories of past experiences can come back around at just the right time to remind you of all you went through to get you to where you are. This is something I’ve experienced firsthand recently.
Someone recently brought up the Encourage Enforcement of G.S. 14-17(b)2 pillar of our C.H.A.N.G.E. platform. They suggested we change our E pillar from specifying G.S. 14-17(b)2 to broader terms to include encouraging enforcement of drug distribution and trafficking laws without specifically mentioning G.S. 14-17(b)2. They said they were making the suggestion because they have received some pushback from a few regarding that particular statute and they aren’t sure how they feel about it them-self because the person who provided the drugs that killed their child was extremely remorseful and certainly did not intend to kill their child. Someone else commented that they had never actually read the statute closely and after reading and examining it more closely were not sure how they them-self felt about it; because it could have very easily been their child dealing the drugs that killed someone and this statute could have meant a murder charge for their child. It was suggested that by broadening our terms/language to be less specific we could gain more support and achieve more rapid growth across the state by being more inclusive of those who may not support G.S. 14-17(b)2.
After giving a great deal of thought, prayer and actively seeking to change my position to agree with the comments and suggestions made, I would like to openly share my response and thoughts on these comments as well as why and how NCPCC was created.
First, in response to specific comments/suggestions made:
1. G.S. 14-17(b)2 is not a drug distribution or trafficking law. G.S. 14-17(b)2 is located under Subchapter III, Article 6 which addresses HOMICIDE in North Carolina and defines first and second degree murder.
2. I believe “intent” should require closer examination to determine if the level of a murder charge should be first degree instead of second degree.
3. Delivering illicit drugs is clearly a careless and reckless act done without regard for human life considering the number of lives lost in this country each day to overdose regardless of who provides those illicit drugs that are claiming so many lives and the circumstances under which they are being provided.
4. I’m not aware of any issues with lack of enforcement of laws pertaining to distribution and trafficking drugs. If there are issues regarding this we should examine them in order to determine if we should and how we should address them going forward.
5. Instead of encouraging enforcement of some laws which criminalize those who suffer from SUD, I would encourage other means such as diversion programs or mandated treatment.
6. I’m not a fan of broad terms. I personally, feel we must be very specific in knowing what we stand for, what we don’t want, what we do want and addressing those specifics with those who are in positions to provide those specifics. Use of broad terms makes noise yet produces little to no results because no one really knows what you want regardless of how good it may sound.
7. Not everyone will agree with the NCPCC platform and that is perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to believe what they believe and stand for those beliefs. We certainly would not encourage anyone to compromise their beliefs in order to stand with us and we don’t believe it would be wise to compromise our beliefs and what we stand for. Doing so may increase our numbers but would only weaken our message. I would prefer to have smaller numbers with a strong and clear/specific message than huge numbers with a weak and unclear/unspecific message.
8. If the person who provided my daughter the drugs that killed her didn’t provide her those drugs, yes she may have gotten them from someone else. Had that happened perhaps she would still be alive. Had she gotten them from someone else and still died, then that person should be charged. However, my daughter faced the consequences of her “choice” to use the drugs. Those consequences cost her her life. The person who provided her those drugs should face the consequences of their “choice” to provide her the drugs that killed her. It’s not a matter of revenge but a matter of justice. It is the law in North Carolina. It is an existing law within the statutes of North Carolina and it must be enforced.
9. Yes, my daughter could have been the one on the other end of the spectrum. My daughter could have been the one who provided drugs that killed your son or daughter. Would that have an impact on the law as it is written? No, it certainly would not. In fact, if my daughter had done that and been charged she might still be alive today. If she was in prison for Second Degree Murder I could still see her, talk to her, write her and visit with her. Her son could do the same.
10. There are circumstances in each case that must be examined on a case by case basis in regard to sentencing. However, that can only happen if G.S. 14-17(b)2 is enforced. Most people aren’t aware it exists and prosecutors try to justify not prosecuting it by misinterpreting it into their own stigmatized version. This must stop.
11. Laws are only effective to the degree by which they are enforced. It is not the job of a defense attorney to believe in the clients’ innocence or guilt. It is their job to defend their client to the highest degree possible with the existing laws as they are written as the means by which to do that. The very same is true of prosecutors.
If you have not read G.S.14-17(b)2, here it is:
(b) A murder other than described in subsection (a) of this section or in G.S. 14-23.2 shall be deemed second degree murder. Any person who commits second degree murder shall be punished as a Class B1 felon, except that a person who commits second degree murder shall be punished as a Class B2 felon in either of the following circumstances:
(2) The murder is one that was proximately caused by the unlawful distribution of opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium, or cocaine or other substance described in G.S. 90-90(1)d., or methamphetamine, and the ingestion of such substance caused the death of the user.
As this issue came up, I saw Facebook posts in my memories from a year ago when I was so confused and questioning my own sanity as I walked through hell trying to learn the laws, make sense of them, understand what was happening and understand why no one was being charged. I quickly learned how stigma of addiction was not only impacting those who suffer in their lives but in in their deaths as well. Much of society and many within the Judicial system believe our children who suffered from SUD are not entitled to justice.
I began researching other cases and found Vanessa Sapp. Her son, Wes had died and her son’s dealer had been charged with Second Degree Murder. I reached out to Vanessa and she offered to stand with me when I felt so alone and confused questioning my sanity. I messaged Vanessa from my front porch one day to ask “Am I losing my mind? I know people think I am. Sometimes, I even think I am because I know I sound like an insane person when I say ‘The SBI Agent lied to me.’” Vanessa assured me my mental faculties were very much intact and at that very moment a still, small voice deep within me said “ You are not as alone as you feel you are, Alecia. There are many other parents questioning their sanity too and you have strength in numbers. You are stronger together than you are individually. Officials can ignore you individually but they cannot collectively.” At that moment the North Carolina Parents Coalition for C.H.A.N.G.E. was born and at this point it will not be changed.
I invite you to review our platform and if you support it and would like to stand with us, we welcome you. If not, that’s fine too. We wish you the very best in pursuing what you do stand for with those who stand with you. NCPCC will continue to encourage enforcement of G.S. 14-17(b)2 and demand justice for those victims lost to overdose.