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Crime Florida murder cases against several alleged fentanyl dealers in limbo after judge's ruling

17:15  12 april  2018
17:15  12 april  2018 Source:   msn.com

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The office was prosecuting dealers for murder in fentanyl overdose cases six months before a new law, signed by Gov. Prosecutors plan to challenge Nelson' s ruling , an appeal that could leave the other cases in limbo .

Florida murder cases against several alleged fentanyl dealers in limbo after judge ' s ruling .

A year ago Florida State Attorney Phil Archer's office indicted its first fentanyl overdose case as a first-degree murder .

Eighteen-year-old Tamas Harris faced two potential penalties

A new Florida law has gone into effect allowing drug dealers to be prosecuted for murder and face life in prison or the death sentence. © Orlando Sentinel A new Florida law has gone into effect allowing drug dealers to be prosecuted for murder and face life in prison or the death sentence. A year ago Florida State Attorney Phil Archer's office indicted its first fentanyloverdose case as a first-degree murder.

Eighteen-year-old Tamas Harris faced two potential penalties: life in prison or execution.

Seminole County prosecutor Dan Faggard called his boss progressive. The office was prosecuting dealers for murder in fentanyl overdose cases six months before a new law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, took effect Oct. 1, adding the drug to the list of substances that could result in that charge.

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Florida murder cases against several alleged fentanyl dealers in limbo after judge ' s ruling .

A year ago Florida State Attorney Phil Archer's office indicted its first fentanyl overdose case as a first-degree murder .

Eighteen-year-old Tamas Harris faced two potential penalties

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Four other men and a woman were charged in fentanyl deaths before Oct. 1. But this week, the same state attorney's office sent notices to lawyers for each of those indicted that might throw a wrench in the cases, alerting defense lawyers to a ruling last week in the case against Christopher Toros.

Krista Torralva

Eight days before a new law went into effect last year allowing prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with murder, Alfonso Pagan, of Winter Springs, was found dead of a fatal overdose. Christopher Toro, 30, was later arrested, accused of selling the deadly fentanyl to Pagan.

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Florida murder cases against several alleged fentanyl dealers in limbo after judge ' s ruling .

A year ago Florida State Attorney Phil Archer's office indicted its first fentanyl overdose case as a first-degree murder .

Eighteen-year-old Tamas Harris faced two potential penalties

Toro could be charged...

Eight days before a new law went into effect last year allowing prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with murder, Alfonso Pagan, of Winter Springs, was found dead of a fatal overdose. Christopher Toro, 30, was later arrested, accused of selling the deadly fentanyl to Pagan.

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Toro could be charged...

(Krista Torralva)

He was charged with first-degree felony murder after the Sept. 23 death of Alfonso Pagan. But Circuit Judge Debra Nelson dismissed the murder charge against Toros, deciding he could not be convicted because fentanyl was not included in the statute when Pagan bought the drug and died.

On Wednesday, Harris' lawyer, Matthew Olszewski, told Judge Marlene Alva he's working on a motion to dismiss based on Nelson's ruling.

Prosecutors plan to challenge Nelson's ruling, an appeal that could leave the other cases in limbo.

Archer's spokesman, Todd Brown, said the notices were sent because prosecutors believed they were ethically responsible for alerting lawyers and judges in other cases potentially affected by Nelson's ruling.

Archer's prosecutors have argued they can charge first-degree murder in fentanyl cases because it is a synthetic of opium, a drug category that existed in the previous version of the law. Nelson disagreed and found fentanyl is not a a synthetic of opium after listening to testimony from Janet Brown and Deborah Hahn, crime analysts in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's chemistry section.

"While we respect Judge Nelson's decision, we believe there is a well-founded basis on which to argue the matter before the 5th District Court of Appeals, and obtain clarification as to the role of fentanyl in the prosecution of cases that occurred prior to October 1, 2017," Todd Brown said.

[email protected] or 407-420-5417 or Twitter @KMTorralva

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