A Janesville man is asking a Rock County judge to dismiss the criminal complaint that charges him with supplying the drugs that killed another man because the document does not actually say he delivered the drugs.
Lawyers for Ashante K. Byrd, 25, formerly of Milton, argue in a motion to dismiss filed Friday that prosecutors have not adequately demonstrated how Byrd is responsible for the death of Tarron Turner, 21, of Janesville.
Rather, the complaint charging Byrd with first-degree reckless homicide says Turner wanted heroin from Byrd’s source, Turner drove them to a spot where they bought about $100 worth of heroin, and Turner shared heroin with Byrd in exchange for a tattoo.
Some parts of that argument emerged during a preliminary hearing Monday, where Court Commissioner Jack Hoag ruled that there was enough probable cause that Byrd had committed a felony to bind him over for trial.
Byrd appeared by video from the Rock County Jail.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Jahnke argued Monday that although it wasn’t explicit in the criminal complaint, a detective said Byrd admitted sharing the heroin with Turner.
In response to a question from defense attorney C. James Fitzgerald, Janesville police Detective Thomas Bechen said that while the complaint says “they” bought heroin, “that’s not consistent with my conversation with Mr. Byrd.”
On the day after Christmas, authorities found Turner’s body in a car parked in a lot near 225 Milton Ave., where Byrd had left him hoping that someone would find him quickly, according to the complaint.
Byrd also told police that he begged Turner not to use more heroin after the two snorted some at a Janesville apartment. But Turner said he could “handle it” and used more, according to the complaint.
These kind of cases can be challenging to prove. To get a conviction before a jury on the reckless homicide charge in a drug case, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant delivered a substance.
- The substance was a controlled substance.
- The defendant knew or believed that the substance was the controlled substance.
- The victim used the substance alleged to have been delivered by the defendant and died as a result.
One of Fitzgerald’s questions during Monday’s hearing aimed at that last point.
An autopsy showed Turner’s cause of death was mixed-drug intoxication by substances including fentanyl and marijuana, according to the complaint. But police do not believe Byrd and Turner got marijuana when they picked up their heroin.
“There is zero indication whatsoever that Mr. Byrd and (Turner) had purchased THC together,” Fitzgerald said.
“There isn’t actually an indication that whatever substance they allegedly purchased was the actual factor that contributed to (Turner’s) death,” he added.
Jahnke countered that the fentanyl or heroin doesn’t have to be the “sole” cause of death under state statutes and that at this stage in the case there’s enough evidence to find probable cause.
Byrd’s next scheduled court date is Tuesday for an arraignment. A judge will consider the motion to dismiss in the future.