Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Contact:  2002 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Michael Miller, Leader Times
Bookmark: (Heroin)


KITTANNING -- Prosecution of two Elderton men charged in connection with 
the heroin overdose death of a Ford City teen will likely be on hold until 
the state Supreme Court rules on a similar legal issue raised in another 
case, according to county Assistant District Attorney Chase McClister.

McClister said yesterday that Judge Kenneth Valasek may wait to decide 
whether cases against Jeremy Calhoun "Chico" Thomas, 22, and Scott Dereck 
Boyer, 19, can continue until after the state's high court decides the 
constitutionality of the law under which the men are charged.

A hearing was held yesterday to hear arguments into whether or not there is 
enough evidence to make a case against Boyer and Thomas, who are charged in 
connection with the Aug. 3 death of 17-year-old Zachary Zion at the Comfort 
Inn in East Franklin Township.

The high court has heard arguments concerning the constitutionality of the 
state's "drug delivery resulting in death" law stemming from a case in 
Allegheny County, and may issue a ruling soon.

The debate centers around the use of the word "murder" in the statute, an 
action that requires malice under state law. Defense attorneys in the case 
now before the Supreme Court cited previous case law in which courts have 
ruled that the act of drug delivery does not imply malice.

Both Boyer and Thomas have been charged with drug delivery resulting in 
death, and face additional charges in the case.

"I think rather than reinvent the wheel, if it's possible to have the 
Supreme Court answer the question (of constitutionality), then we might be 
best served to let them do that," McClister said.

Attorney Ron Valasek, who represents Boyer, said the cases should be thrown 
out because the law itself is flawed.

"You can't prove (that there is sufficient evidence for a case) with a law 
that is not constitutional," he said.

McClister said that while the hearing yesterday was primarily held to 
determine whether there is enough evidence against Thomas and Boyer for 
their cases to proceed, the controversy surrounding the law was bound to 
come up.

"It's inevitable that they're going to raise the constitutionality issue," 
he said. "If not now, then later."

As to the evidence itself, both Ron Valasek and Thomas Ceraso, counsel for 
Thomas, argued there is no evidence specifically linking heroin their 
clients sold and the heroin that killed Zion.

"I'm not going to stand here and say that my client did not deliver heroin 
to that hotel room, he did," Ceraso said, "but that's not the issue." Both 
Ceraso and Ron Valasek said there was no chemical testing done to determine 
whether the heroin sold to Zion was the same drug that killed him.

McClister countered that there were seven stamp-sized bags of heroin in the 
room, that the victim purchased some of that heroin and that there was 
heroin in his blood stream.

No testimony from any of the witnesses was heard yesterday. Judge Valasek 
said he would use transcripts from the preliminary hearing in the case and 
other evidence offered by the Commonwealth to make his determination.
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