Mimesis Law
6 August 2020

Because Someone, Anyone Has to Pay: Addict Jailed for BF’s Overdose

July 5, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — The headline from this Chicago Tribune article is a bit misleading.  Amy Shemberger was never a heroin “provider.”  At her worst, she was a heroin user who scored some dope for her and her boyfriend, who died after they took their last hit together.  She woke up but he overdosed, and she was then charged with his death:

As a result, prosecutors charged Shemberger with drug-induced homicide. She was convicted and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

“My daughter was not a dealer. She was not a murderer. She’s in prison because she was sharing the drug with the two other people that were in the house,” said Pat Shemberger, who called drug-induced homicide “the most ridiculous law I’ve ever seen.”

“It could have been my daughter (who died),” she said. “But it was Peter.”

Illinois legislators passed the law that was used to charge Shemberger in 1989 and expanded it in 2002.

That law was used to bludgeon Shemberger into a prison cell because someone had to “pay” for her boyfriend’s death.  Whether the Illinois legislature contemplated that someone in her position would be prosecuted as if she was a drug dealer is irrelevant now.  Consequences are consequences, whether they were intended or otherwise.  And those who try to justify this law’s existence and how it’s used could not be more removed from reality.  This level of delusion would be risible if lives weren’t actually at stake here:

“I think it can be used to really send a chill down the back of the drug distributors,” said John Roberts, a retired Chicago Police Department captain who believes widespread use of the charge and knowledge of the severe penalties associated with it would deter dealers.

In his ideal scenario, drug addicts like Shemberger who supplied the fatal dose would, in return for a diminished sentence, flip on the person they got the drugs from, and on and on up the line.

“It could go all the way up the chain, all the way back to the Mexican cartel,” said Roberts, who recently met with prosecutors and Chicago Police Department officials about deploying the charge more often.

That’s right folks.  A former captain of The Second City’s police department just said that someone in Shemberger’s position could provide the lead to the indictment of someone in El Chapo’s shoes south of the border.  Even if Schemberger would have chosen to sing like a canary, it probably wouldn’t have gotten further than the guy who gave her the dope, and then maybe that guy’s boss.  When disingenuous morons like Roberts get a soapbox, only bad things can come from it.  Here’s hoping that the prosecutors who were on the receiving end of Roberts’ “advice” don’t take him too seriously.

But this insanity is not reserved just for the Land of Lincoln.  Over 20 states have enacted similar laws that can be used to collar someone in Shemberger’s predicament.  Statutes that were enacted to supposedly go after drug dealers have been used to snare pitiful addicts like Schemberger, who belong inside a treatment center instead of a prison cell.

We can hate drug dealers all we want, even if they’re the callous type that will shoot someone up and then try to revive him with a baseball bat before dumping his body into a dumpster.  But Schemberger gives us the most sympathetic portrait as to the unintended consequences of another draconian drug law, as to why we ought to think thrice before this stuff is put in the books.  Hence the subtitle from the Tribune article:

Unintended consequences

Amy Shemberger’s drug-induced homicide conviction has not only cost her years of her life, it’s also separated her from her young son, Noah, now 7.

Shemberger hasn’t seen Noah in almost two years and is at risk of losing custody of him permanently if his legal adoption, which is being pursued by Kucinski’s mother, goes through, her mother said.

“She’s devastated,” said Pat Shemberger, who claims her daughter has gotten clean and been a model inmate since her lockup. “She is crying all the time. She wants to have contact with her son. She loves her son.”

Kane-Willis said she believes that the application of drug-induced homicide laws not only tears apart families, it can also cost lives if friends or partners of an overdose victim fail to call 911 for fear that they’ll be charged if that person dies.

Not only will users go to jail for scoring their fellow fiend’s last dose, but everyone else will be disinclined to call the ambulance should someone OD for fear that they will be prosecuted.  People will be deterred from seeking medical attention for someone at the bad end of a hit, and will instead be encouraged to keep it a private matter.

This is one of those scenarios where there are no winners, where everyone is playing a part they weren’t meant to play.  Well, except for Roberts, who feels like he’s saving the world by doubling down on the stupid:

“I’m relentless,” the former homicide detective said. “This is doable, it’s imminently doable. Should it be done? Yeah. Should society and should those families expect an earnest effort on their behalf after somebody dies? I think so.

Just like those “relentless” social justice warriors who advocate for “revenge porn” laws in spite of the obvious constitutional restrictions, Roberts seeks to move heaven and earth so long as someone ends up holding the bag.  He will not be deterred from preaching his piffle, even if that someone is an addict who never sold an ounce and never meant to harm anyone.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Richard G. Kopf
    5 July 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply


    Do me a favor:

    1. In the light most favorable to the government (the standard which is typically used to govern appeals when a conviction is challenged on the basis that the evidence was insufficient to convict), state the facts of the defendant’s actions or omissions.

    2. Then cite and quote the relevant statute.

    After that, perhaps you and I can have a fruitful discussion about the prosecution and the charging decision.

    By the way, this is not a trap or a challenge. I just cannot determine the strength of your post without the foregoing. All the best.

    Rich Kopf

  • Mario Machado
    6 July 2016 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Judge Kopf,

    1. The facts are as follows: the defendant, along with another man, went to a dealer’s house, where $100 worth of heroin was purchased (it’s unclear by whom, but it doesn’t matter for purposes of conviction). After splitting the dope, that man dropped off the defendant at the decedent’s house, who was waiting for the defendant so that they could take the drug, according to testimony. Defendant hands the decedent some smack, he snorts it and subsequently OD’s. It’s also indicated that she also took the drug, but that’s not really relevant for conviction either.

    2. Here’s the relevant statute:

    (720 ILCS 5/9-3.3) (from Ch. 38, par. 9-3.3)
    Sec. 9-3.3. Drug-induced homicide.
    (a) A person who violates Section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act or Section 55 of the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act by delivering 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, commits the offense of drug-induced homicide.

    Now, judging from the government-friendly set of facts, it is very likely that she had some part in the delivery of the smack to the decedent, and even more likely that the decedent hadn’t snorted the drug had she not brought it to him. Her only salvation would be to show that his death was not a cause (proximate or otherwise) of snorting that heroin dose in particular (e.g., there was already stuff in his system).

    My beef wasn’t with whether there was enough for a conviction (one report said she pled out), but that she was an addict who was snared by a statute that was, I think, meant for drug dealers and deliverers (e.g.,the guy who drove her to the dealer’s house, and the dealer himself). Reports show that she had been released on bail a few days prior for another drug charge, meaning that her behavior was compulsive, and drug dealers usually don’t go around scoring $100 worth of heroin.

    The best to you Judge.

  • Prison or Treatment? | judgecase
    6 July 2016 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    […] Because Someone, Anyone Has to Pay: Addict Jailed for BF’s Overdose […]