Local officials skeptical death penalty will deter drug dealers


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Monday, President Donald Trump announced his plan to fight the opioid epidemic, and one of the ways he proposed to combat the issue was stiffer penalties for some drug dealers, including the death penalty. But Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth is not sure that will work.

“I don’t know if having a death penalty as a sentence is necessarily going to keep people from doing what they’re doing,” he said. “The almighty dollar is what the drug dealers are going after.”

Federal Public Defender for Michigan’s Western District Sharon Turek agreed, and said there are questions about whether putting dealers to death is consitutional.

“That would probably have to be litigated,” she said. “Because I think there’d be, perhaps, some 8th amendment challenges, that it’s cruel and unusual.”

For the first federal offense, those convicted of delivering 100 to 999 grams of heroin face at least 5 years in prison. Turek thinks the current laws are strict enough–and wants the focus to be on treatment and education.

“This is an epidemic that has cut through all socioeconomic, any demographic,” she said. “It really affects everyone, all age groups.”

Wriggelsworth said any changes in the law will not affect how his department does its job.

“The penalty is the penalty,” he said. “We deal with the crime end, and then once we build a case on somebody, or they build a case on themselves, then the prosecution and the sentence, that’s all up to the judicial branch.”

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