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Report: "Len Bias" convictions depend on where crimes take place

Judge's Gavel By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Judge's Gavel By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

FOND DU LAC, WI (WTAQ) - It's been 26 years since Wisconsin has allowed reckless homicide convictions for those who supply the drugs that kill those who overdose.  

Now, Gannett Wisconsin Media says a person's chances of being convicted depend on where the offenses take place.  

The chain of ten daily newspapers in Wisconsin's mid-section found that prosecutors are generally becoming more aggressive in filing charges under the state's "Len Bias Law." However, drug suppliers in some counties get a decade or more in prison for overdose deaths -- while suspects in other places never get charged.  

Gannett said La Crosse, Fond du Lac, and Waukesha counties are especially aggressive in charging suppliers. Dodge County DA Kurt Klomberg said he'd do it more often -- but sometimes, it's hard to prove who supplied the dose that caused a user's death.  

Other times, Gannett says authorities don't think to investigate certain deaths as drug-related.  

Last year, Wisconsin prosecutors charged 71 people with first-degree reckless homicide in drug overdoses. That's up from 47 in 2012. Twenty-one people were convicted last year, and their average sentences were just over six years. The maximum is 25 years.  

Numerous states passed similar laws in the years after basketball prospect Len Bias died from a drug overdose, just before his pro career could begin.  

Wisconsin adopted its "Len Bias Law" in 1988. Last fall, WITI-TV in Milwaukee found that prosecutors filed almost no charges under the law until heroin became popular again over the last decade. That review found that Len Bias law prosecutions in southeast Wisconsin grew by over 300 percent since 2008.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)

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