People v. Nere

Full title: THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee, v. JENNIFER N. NERE Appellant

Court: SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Date published: Sep 20, 2018

Facts

Augustina Taylor died in her mother’s apartment in Wheaton, Illinois, after being given heroin, crack cocaine, and a syringe by her girlfriend, Leslie Walker. The State charged her with drug-induced homicide. Taylor’s autopsy revealed heroin and cocaine intoxication due to intravenous drug use. Dr. Jeff Harkey testified that Taylor died from morphine, codeine, and 6-MAM opiates, with benzoylecgonine being the principal metabolite. The jury heard conflicting testimony over whether Taylor had consumed drugs before receiving the drugs and whether they were ever alone together at a party. The drug-induced homicide statute states that a person who unlawfully delivers a controlled substance and causes death is guilty of such a crime.

Issue

Decision

We affirm the judgment of the appellate court, although we do not agree with the appellate court’s reasoning. We hold that, as a matter of state law, IPI Criminal 4th 7.15 (Supp. 2011) properly sets forth the principles of causation established by this court, and therefore the trial court did not err in using it. We reject the appellate court’s conclusion that the use of this instruction raises “grave due process concerns,” and we are not convinced by the Supreme Court’s dictum in Burrage that we should abandon the “contributing cause” standard. We agree with the appellate court that the instruction should be modified in cases of drug-induced homicide where the defendant delivers multiple controlled substances to the victim but is charged based on only one of the deliveries. However, we hold that the trial court’s failure to do so in this case was harmless error. Finally, we hold that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant beyond a reasonable doubt of drug-induced homicide.

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