SANTA ANA, Calif. – Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer issued the following statement regarding a Deputy Orange County Public Defender instructing his client to hum in open court in an attempt to avoid hearing the controlled substance advisement being given by a prosecutor warning the drug dealer that if someone dies as a result his drug-related activities he could be charged with murder:
The drug dealer was shackled as he pled guilty to possession for sale of fentanyl and methamphetamine last month.
The handcuffs on his wrists meant putting fingers in his ears wasn’t an option.
So his lawyer – an Orange County Deputy Public Defender – told the drug dealer to start humming. He had been instructed to keep humming until his lawyer gave him the signal to stop.
The deputy public defender didn’t want him to hear what the Orange County District Attorney’s Office had to say. And what my prosecutor had to say could put him on the hook for murder.
In Orange County, fentanyl-related deaths have increased more than 1,000% over the last five years.
Hundreds of drug-related deaths are still pending at the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner to determine if they too are part of the deadly drug toll.
Statewide, fentanyl-related deaths are up more than 1,500 percent since 2016 and last year the number of Americans who died in drug-related deaths topped 100,000 for the first time ever.
2022 is predicted to be even worse. Just three days into the new year – in less than two hours – Anaheim police responded to four drug-related deaths. A fifth person was in critical condition.
Last November, I announced a new policy to charge drug dealers with murder if they are convicted of selling or making drugs with fentanyl that leads to someone’s death after they have been warned of its dangers.
My prosecutors now give an advisement to anyone who agrees to plead guilty to a wide variety of drug-related offenses, including drug sales, possession for sale, and manufacturing and distributing of any controlled substance that if someone dies as a result of their future drug-related activities they can be charged with murder.
Every law enforcement agency in Orange County has agreed to provide the warning at the time of arrest so it can be used in court later.
And when a defendant is convicted or accepts a court offer, we ask the judge to give the admonishment so it is part of the official court record. Some judges do. Some judges refuse.
But we are doing whatever we can to get the message out – and save lives.
These are not overdoses. These dealers are essentially handing a loaded gun to unsuspecting victims knowing that they will probably die, and they don’t care.
Fentanyl is cheap, it’s easy to get and it’s killing people who had no idea they were taking it.
And I’m not going to let these drug dealers get away with murder.
This defendant – and his deputy public defender – don’t want to hear it.
The judge wasn’t having it, telling the public defender in no uncertain terms she was not going to allow humming in her courtroom. It was inappropriate, she scolded.
The judge let the defendant withdraw his guilty plea – and if he’s convicted, we’ll have another opportunity to read him the advisement – and put him on notice that he could be charged with murder.
You can hum all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that drug dealers are killing people by selling them fentanyl and at some point they will face the music.