Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life in prison for a single dose

This is a slightly old story but I think it needs to be discussed. There are several key points that I feel are important to make.

Eugene Atkins, a 21 year old man from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was convicted in 2006 of selling a lethal dose of heroin to a 17-year-old boy. Matthew McKinney and his friend, Christopher Perrin, bought the heroin from Atkins, and Perrin administered heroin to McKinney. Perrin was sentenced to 2 years for lying to authorities about his involvement. Check out the coverage of the original conviction here.

Tuesday, Atkins’ conviction was upheld.

Eugene Atkins II claims he shouldn't be blamed for Matthew McKinney's death because another person [Perrin] could have called for medical help. He says the jury that heard his case in 2006 should have been given that instruction.

Where is the trial for the pharmacist who gave Heath Ledger his sleeping pills? Why was there no hunt for Chris Farley’s supplier? There are quite a few people in Grand Rapids who claim that the prosecution of Atkins is a racially charged witch hunt.

Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is, if heroin were legal and regulated properly, it would have been a lot harder for those kids to get those drugs. They would be packed to indicate where the drugs came from, and the cashier would probably have said, “Hey kid, you look young, let me see some ID.” I’m sure that phrase is rarely uttered by drug dealers.

Personally, I don’t believe anyone should be in jail because of this situation. It wasn't bad heroin, just a bad reaction. If this kid hadn’t died, neither his friend nor the dealer would be in jail, and those two being in jail will certainly not bring Matthew McKinney back. And it definitely will not do anything to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

It’s very sad that this young man died, but it’s even more depressing to think that he might still be alive had his friend called for professional medical help. I don’t know the specifics of what Perrin did or did not do, but I can only assume that he was terrified about what would happen if the cops came and found the two of them in possession of an illegal substance. If Michigan had a publicized Good Samaritan law to protect people from criminal prosecution when calling for medical help for drug overdoses, perhaps Matthew might still be alive. You have the power to help prevent tragedies such as this. Please visit to learn how you can take action to implement Good Samaritan policies in your community.

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Anonymous said...

First of all, Matthew's BEST friend, Perrin, had NO idea that he was in trouble.... they had been doing heroin together for 2 yrs. previously. Next, the MINUTE his friend (Perrin) knew he was in trouble, he screamed, yes screamed at his mother to call 911 immediately. He had no cares of his consequences. Third, if anyone, and I MEAN ANYONE, had seen the ultimate devastation that PERRIN had felt, (Let's just say, he did not want to let go of matthew's cold, dead body, he was hugging him and crying so hard,... the paramedics thought HE was going to have some problems) you people, who gossip and blame would not feel the way you do. It is MATTHEWS fault that he is not here. NOT PERRIN's, and NOT ATKINS,... and it is not fair. Peace on this subject.

Anonymous said...

how about if this ILLIGAL substance was not around in the first place because its ILLEGAL then matt and his friend would not have anyway to get it but atkins dumb self supplied it so i personally hold atkin TOTALLY responsible for the death not to say perrin didnt play a roll and also it is partly matts fault for takin it in the first place but allllll blame is on atkins!!!!

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