Should Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Dealer Be Charged with Murder?

Ashleigh Banfield thinks Philip Seymour Hoffman’s dealer should be prosecuted for murder. And you thought Law & Order‘s Jack McCoy was just a TV character.

From the Huffington Post:

Banfield argued on “Legal View” Monday that Hoffman’s drug dealer had to be a “sick man” to give him the drug that reportedly led to his death, and said that he should be charged with “felony murder.”

“I will never leave this without saying that the guy who gave an addict the drug that killed him deserves to go away for life,” she said. “The poor user can’t help it at this point!”

Banfield’s guest, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, insisted that it would be “absurd” and “foolish” to convict the dealer of a felony.

“Here you have a man who was addicted, who went out and got the drugs from somebody. That somebody didn’t want him to die,” Dershowitz said.

“That someone didn’t care,” Banfield fired back. “If they’re dealing in heroin, they don’t care.”

Police did find as many as 50 bags of heroin along with several syringes in Hoffman’s Manhattan apartment, which is mind-boggling whether you’re familiar with addiction or not.

For me personally, Banfield’s comments are almost comically ironic: I used to be her producer, back in 2001-2002, and what led me to her and MSNBC in the aftermath of 9/11 was an addiction to heroin. I had been using for months and finally realized that I was headed toward death, so I entered rehab in Miami in August of 2001 and got out just two weeks before the attacks. On September 11th, I had no job and no real moorings in life to speak of, so I made the decision to drive to New York City and go to work for MSNBC. This isn’t to say that there’s an upside to addiction because it can be a catalyst for something better, because that’s an insane way of thinking about it. But that was what happened to me. Doesn’t make me glad I did heroin because it’s the kind of thing you’re never completely free of, as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death proves.

To Ashleigh’s point, though — when I was getting high, I felt like those dealers were the best people I knew. Contrary to the stereotype of the villainous drug dealer standing in the shadows dispensing death one drop at a time, the guys I dealt with were, for the most part, friendly, good-natured, always willing to talk for a bit if I was so inclined. I’m sure that the amount of money I was handing them daily probably bought me a little conversation, but when you’re completely obliterated you don’t realize that. What I’m trying to say is, what dealers do is illegal and often reprehensible, but they’re not the ones shooting the shit they sell you into your arm or putting it up your nose or burning it on a piece of aluminum foil. Unless there are aggravating circumstances, the idea of charging someone with murder who’s basically catering to a clientele that’s often demanding what he or she is selling is ludicrous.

Cigarette manufacturers for years covered up the dangers of their product and the reality of its addictiveness; that’s why an argument could be made that they were culpable in the deaths of those who smoked. But nobody who buys heroin thinks they’re getting a little bag of sunshine. They know the risks starting out, even though there does come a point where those risks — and everything else — don’t matter anymore. Once you’re addicted to a substance, you’re sunk. But it’s then up to the addict to do whatever he or she can — hopefully with the help of people who care about him or her — to stop doing drugs. If you’re a cocaine addict, sure you can put super glue in your nose, but it won’t stop the actual addiction at the source. Neither will charging drug dealers with murder.

Although depraved indifference, I don’t know — maybe that’s another story. There’s no doubt that the person or persons who sold 50 bags of heroin to Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t care about him the least. To them he was just another loyal customer. Same as I was to my dealers, no matter how nice they seemed at the time.

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.