view full story- Coroner: ‘Synthetic marijuana’ is no longer similar to marijuana - ‘Poisons’ yield unpredictable results
Synthetic marijuana — different chemical blends first created in the 2000s to mimic the effects of marijuana — is nothing like its namesake anymore.
“This is a poison,” Dr. Beau Clark, East Baton Rouge Parish’s coroner, said of the chemical combinations known as synthetic marijuana but referred to by scientists and doctors in chemical terms as types of synthetic cannabinoids. “It’s not really anything like marijuana.”
While original versions had effects on users similar to marijuana, these newer forms of synthetic cannabinoids have wildly different, often much more dangerous effects on users. As chemists have altered the drug combinations in an attempt to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, what most people refer to as synthetic marijuana has been manipulated to the point that it no longer resembles America’s most commonly used illegal drug.
“The effects have been unpredictable,” Clark said. And that’s where the danger lies.
The chemicals typically are sprayed onto grass clippings, paper or some type of other flammable product and then packaged as forms of incense or potpourri often advertised as “not for consumption.” It’s ingestion of some of those chemicals that leads to symptoms in users such as acute psychosis, paranoia and kidney failure recently seen by doctors.
Synthetic marijuana was first submitted to the State Police Crime Lab in Baton Rouge in January 2010, the lab’s toxicology and drug manager said. Since then, the drug’s popularity has exploded. In 2012 and 2013, different chemical combinations commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana became the third most-submitted drug to the crime lab behind marijuana and cocaine, said Rebecca Nugent, the manager.
This year, it appears the drug will outpace cocaine to become the second most-submitted drug to the lab. In fact, submissions have nearly doubled midway through 2014 compared with last year, Nugent said.
As law enforcement and legislators have joined forces to ban different chemical combinations of the drug, chemists in other countries have created just as many new versions that regularly end up packaged on shelves as herbal incense or other cleverly marketed products. Legislators can’t ban all chemicals that could be considered synthetic marijuana because lawmakers first must make sure they aren’t banning those used in everyday products or medicines before adding them to the banned list of Schedule I drugs, said the crime lab’s director, Capt. Jim McGuane.
No one has died in the parish purely from consuming synthetic marijuana, said Clark, the coroner. But Nugent, the crime lab toxicology manager, said lab technicians have found evidence of synthetic cannabinoid use by some drivers in fatal crashes. An increasing number of people are driving after taking the drug, she said.
While no one in the parish has died directly from using the drug, Baton Rouge police said in June that a dog was beaten to death by a man who told them he recently ingested a form of the synthetic chemicals.
“The people that are making these compounds … all they care about is making money,” said McGuane, the Crime Lab director. “They have no idea what it’ll do to the person (using it).”
Published 7/17/14 - The Advocate District Attorney John DeRosier Honored by Louisiana State Police
On Thursday, July 10, 2014, Louisiana State Police held an awards ceremony in Baton Rouge. The ceremony was held to honor State Troopers, public safety personnel from across Louisiana, and civilians.
Among those honored was Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier. He received the Superintendent’s Award for Excellence. According to Louisiana State Police, the Superintendent, Colonel Michael D. Edmonson, has the discretion to issue this award to individuals, sections or troops in recognition of outstanding performance or achievement. The award may also be conferred on individuals, companies, schools, or other entities apart from State Police. DeRosier was one of only 11 recipients statewide.
D.A. Burton named to Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame
Beauregard Parish District Attorney David Burton has been announced as one of seven inductees into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame for 2014. Burton, a graduate of DeRidder High School and LSU Law Center, served as an assistant district attorney for nine years before first being elected as Beauregard's district attorney in 1990.
He announced earlier this year that he will retire at the end of 2014.
"I appreciate this recognition and am humbled by the honor," Burton said. "The recognition should really go, however, to our staff of attorneys and other fine employees who have made it such a pleasure to serve, and who work so hard for all of us each day."
Other inductees are:
— E. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association
— The late Corinne “Lindy” Boggs, of the U.S. House of Representatives
— Andy Brown, sheriff of Jackson Parish
— Glenn H. Curtis, major general for the Louisiana National Guard
— Sid J. Gautreaux III, sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish
— Fredericka Homberg Wicker, judge, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of Gretna
Tribute and appreciation events honoring the inductees will take place Friday, July 25, beginning with a public reception at 1:30 p.m. at the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum, located on La. 66 in West Feliciana Parish. At 5 p.m., a banquet and formal ceremonies will take place at Boudreaux’s Restaurant at 2647 Government St., in Baton Rouge.
"I'm proud of our community and of our people who live, work, worship and raise their families in Beauregard Parish," Burton said. "It has been a privilege to serve as district attorney these 24 years."
Lafourche Parish has spent more than $230,000 prosecuting a Thibodaux man accused of killing, decapitating and dismembering his disabled son, the district attorney said.
Jeremiah Wright, 32, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in February for the 2011 murder of 7-year-old Jori Lirette. He remains in the Lafourche jail pending transfer to East Louisiana State Hospital, a state-run mental facility, but there’s a waiting list for the intensive psychiatric care he needs, officials said.
Prosecutors spent $231,612 preparing for the multiple competency hearings that led to February’s verdict, Lafourche District Attorney Cam Morvant said. Cases involving mental illness typically are “more costly than other types of cases because you’re not just looking at a moment in time,” Morvant said. In Wright’s case, in-depth mental health examinations and an investigation into a childhood partly spent in foster care were required.
By comparison, the prosecution of Amy Hebert, a south Lafourche woman convicted of killing her two children in 2009, cost taxpayers $300,000.
Morvant said he doesn’t “cut corners” when it comes to trials, but he strives to spend wisely because he recognizes that taxpayer money is being used.
The bulk of the bill, $172,652, came from The Forensic Panel, which studied 5,000 pages of reports detailing the boy’s death and Wright’s mental health history and foster care experiences, he said. Wright’s stay at the Lafourche jail, just over 300 days, is costing taxpayers $4 per day, or about $1,200 to date. Wright also spent about a year at East Louisiana State Hospital.
“We’re simply waiting on a bed,” Lafourche sheriff’s spokesman Brennan Matherne said of Wright’s pending transfer. “It’s not unprecedented for it to take years for a bed to become available.”
Wright won’t get the court-mandated treatment until that transfer goes through, Matherne said.
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state's law barring convicted felons from possessing guns. The justices, who heard argument in May, issued the ruling in a pair of cases originating from district courts in Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.
Both challenges to Revised Statute 14:95.1 are byproducts of a 2012 constitutional amendment that made gun ownership a fundamental right. The amendment, which Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved, strengthened the state's gun rights and required that any limit to them must meet a "strict scrutiny" test, the highest level of judicial review.
"Some arrested or convicted of crimes involving firearms have attempted to show that the laws under which they were charged do not withstand strict scrutiny and are thus unconstitutional," Associate Justice Jefferson Hughes III of Denham Springs wrote for the court in the 17-page opinion. "In these consolidated cases we now reject those arguments."
"Our law proscribing the possession of firearms by convicted felons is not affected by the amendment and withstands a strict scrutiny analysis. Such laws are effective, time-tested and easily understandable and do not violate the Constitution. Common sense and the public safety allow no other result."
The court overturned a 2013 decision by Judge Robert Pitre of the 24th Judicial District Court in the case of Jamal Taylor, 27, of Avondale and Kelin Stevens, 31, of Houma. Under state law, Taylor is barred from having guns because of his five felony narcotics convictions, while Stevens may not have guns because of his convictions of second-degree battery and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, prosecutors said.
Pitre had ruled favorably for the two defendants, granting them their request to quash the firearm charges on constitutional grounds. Pitre has handed down similar rulings in other cases.
Taylor and Stevens are two of three men who await trial in a Jan. 6, 2012, drive-by shooting near Westwego. A stray bullet struck 11-year-old Keian Ester of Harvey in the eye, killing him. The murder and attempted murder charges against the defendants were not affected by Pitre's ruling on the gun offenses.
In St. Tammany's 22nd Judicial District, Judge William Knight upheld the felon-with-a-gun law last year when he refused to dismiss the charge that prosecutors filed against Christopher G. Eberhardt, 37, of Slidell. Eberhardt was booked with theft in 2012, and police alleged he had a gun even though he had been convicted in 2007 of unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.
The Supreme Court upheld Knight's decision. Eberhardt's attorneys, with the St. Tammany public defender's office, argued the law was unconstitutional. The court already had handed down narrowly tailored rulings in upholding the illegal gun possession laws. In December, justices ruled the law did not violate the constitutional rights of people charged with gun possession while they're on probation or parole. That decision originated from New Orleans, in the case of Glen Draughter. In January, justices upheld a juvenile law on concealed weapons, in an East Baton Rouge Parish case.
In the latest decision, justices analyzed the Legislature's intent in pushing for the constitutional amendment, which was backed by the National Rifle Association and Gov. Bobby Jindal. State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, pushed the measure to reinforce the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment in Louisiana law, Hughes wrote. ...continue reading
The search incident to arrest does not include all of the digital contents of a cell phone. For that, a warrant is required.
The 12th edition of the Louisiana Law Enforcement Handbook is now available in electronic format!