Drugs Adult to Be Sentenced as Juvenile
posted by August 14 at 1:21 PMon
Donalydia Huertas was 17 when she gave her 16-year-old friend, Danielle McCarthy, ecstasy on December 31, 2006. Even though McCarthy began to show symptoms of an overdose—delirious, urinating, a seizure—her friends waited hours before taking her to a hospital in Edmonds, where she was pronounced dead. I wrote about the whole sordid story here, and here’s an excerpt about the penalties:
In Washington, when a person dies from taking an illegal drug, the individual who supplied the drug has committed "controlled-substances homicide," according to a law passed in 1987. It's the equivalent of holding a gun dealer liable if someone shoots himself.
"It was clear who gave her the drugs and who sold her the drugs," said Deputy Prosecutor Coleen St. Clair of the Snohomish County Superior Court, who is handling the case….
The penalty for administering a lethal dose of a drug is usually 51 to 68 months in prison for adults. The penalty for juveniles is typically a month in jail.
The prosecutor charged Huertas with manslaughter as an adult after she turned 18, but a judge rejected the charge in June. And today, the Times’s (excellent reporter) Jennifer Sullivan reports on the sentencing decision.
On Wednesday, the case neared its end in Huertas' favor. A Snohomish County judge ruled that Huertas will be sentenced in juvenile court, a decision that clears the way for the 19-year-old to receive a standard sentencing range of up to 30 days in a juvenile jail, instead of the nearly 5-1⁄2 years in an adult prison that she could have faced if sentenced in adult court.
[Judge Ellen] Fair said Huertas acted with "stupidity" by not coming to McCarthy's aid when the girl was overdosing. But since then, Fair said, Huertas has "gained some maturity."
Huertas should definitely be punished: She didn't save her friend's life when she had the chance. However, this lighter juvenile sentencing makes sense. Offenders who were kids at the time shouldn’t be given trumped up adult charges. And Heurtas, the only non-white person charged, wasn’t the only one to blame. David Morris, an adult who sold the ecstasy to the girls, accepted an offer to testify against Huertas in exchange for a shorter sentence. McCarthy paid for the drugs with her own money, court records show, and she asked her friend to make sure her parents didn't find out. And about a half-dozen people were also with McCarthy when she died—and one of them even told the group not to call an ambulance. The negligence of all her friends, ecstasy, and strictly punitive drug policies all conspired to kill Danielle McCarthy. But only Donalydia Huertas was facing years in prison.