Two men have been charged with second-degree murder for dealing heroin laced with fentanyl. They're accused of killing a 30-year-old from Murfreesboro as Tennessee law enforcement is increasingly turning to homicide charges stemming from overdose deaths.
These second-degree murder charges in the death of Justin Brent of Murfreesboro originated with a state investigation into a series of overdoses in Middle Tennessee last year. Police say the heroin was cut with potent fentanyl, which can be deadly in much smaller doses.
Tennessee is among 20 states where a drug dealer can face murder charges. This month, it's joined a much smaller group of states. House Majority Leader William Lamberth pushed through a new law that took effect July 1, permitting capital punishment for a murder involving fentanyl.
"That would be an aggravating factor that could be placed in front of a jury for them to decide whether the death penalty would be appropriate," he said during one committee hearing.
The bill passed unanimously, resulting in no debate.
But addiction advocates say the heightened penalties are counterproductive and might keep some drug users from calling 911 when a friend overdoses.