A Whitewater man is not guilty of reckless homicide following another man’s drug overdose death in 2017, a Walworth County jury decided Thursday.
The jury convicted him of other, less serious charges.
Jeremy D. Meyer, 37, of 424 Pleasant St., faced charges after the suspected fentanyl overdose death of Joshua R. Syck on Sept. 2, 2017. Syck’s girlfriend and Meyer found Syck dead on the UW-Whitewater campus.
On the trial’s fourth day, the jury of six women and six men heard closing arguments and deliberated for about 2½ hours before deciding to acquit Meyer on the most serious charge he faced—party to first-degree reckless homicide by delivering drugs.
The jury decided to find Meyer guilty of a lesser offense—delivering heroin. They also convicted Meyer of theft from a corpse and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Although Meyer was not convicted of the most serious charge, Judge Phillip Koss ordered him into custody until his sentencing in September.
Meyer has made all of his court appearances, is participating in family drug court, has placement of his children and has a “good-paying job,” said one of his lawyers, Jason Sanders.
Wiedenfeld, as he did with his opening statement Monday, began his closing argument by displaying a photo of Syck.
Syck died just hours before his 35th birthday. The memory of finding his body, some parts warm, others cold, stuck with his girlfriend, Jessica Gault, in the distressful and pain-ridden year following his death.
“He’s someone who was a dad. He was a brother. He was a son,” Wiedenfeld said. “He was loved by his family, but he wasn’t perfect. He made bad choices. He was an addict. He used drugs, and he paid for it with his life.”
Meyer facilitated that death, the DA argued, and he should be held accountable for his—as the charge calls it—“reckless” conduct.
But Sanders said the jury needed to carefully examine what the evidence showed and what it didn’t show. And they needed to remove their feelings—albeit, some valid ones—from that analysis.
“Now it’s fair to feel it,” he said. “I would like to go back to September 2017 and smack that man (Meyer) in the back of the head. And if you do, too, that’s OK. Then take it, and set it down outside the jury room.”
Sanders used posters to illustrate two of his main points on the homicide charge. They had to do with what drugs actually killed Syck and where he really got those drugs—usually the two hardest elements to prove in drug overdose homicide cases.
The prosecution said Syck died from using drugs that Meyer and Kori L. Kincaid picked up from Rockford, Illinois, the day before. But Sanders said it was reasonable to doubt that theory based of something Syck himself said at one point—that he got drugs from the Garden Apartments.
Sanders also questioned how the drugs they bought in Rockford could last through all the different times they were shared among others before Syck’s death.
Sanders also pointed to the potentially lethal amount of methadone found in Syck’s system as a reason to be unsure if the suspected heroin was what killed him.
Wiedenfeld said the fentanyl/acetyl fentanyl found in Syck’s system was a substantial enough factor in his death to warrant a conviction, but the jury did not agree.
Meyer did not testify.
Twice during his 12-minute rebuttal, Wiedenfeld misspoke and referred to “Josh” as “Jeremy,” mixing up the case’s two main subjects. Family members noticed this, and at least one mentioned it to a victim representative from the DA’s office.
Before Koss announced the verdicts, Gault sat holding photos of her and Syck.
Kincaid, 41, of Whitewater, who testified during the trial, also was charged with party to reckless homicide and other charges. She is next set to appear for a pretrial hearing Monday, July 29.
Meyer will be sentenced at 11 a.m. Sept. 20.