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WI Supreme Court Upholds Juneau County Convictions for First-Degree Reckless Homicide and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Child Resulting in Death

 

"Drug abuse often leads to tragic consequences, especially for younger users," says Van Hollen. "I'm gratified that our supreme court held Patrick Patterson fully accountable for the death of his victim."

 

MADISON — A criminal defendant has a constitutional right to freedom from prosecution for the same offense under more than one statute. This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Patrick R. Patterson's Juneau County convictions for first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of a controlled substance and contributing to the delinquency of a child with death as a result. The state's highest court held that the two offenses differed in both law and fact, and the state legislature intended multiple punishments for the offenses and conduct at issue. Patterson provided his 17-year-old victim, Tanya S. with Oxycodone, causing her death.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the supreme court, praised the decision. "Drug abuse often leads to tragic consequences, especially for younger users," said Van Hollen. "I'm gratified that our supreme court held Patrick Patterson fully accountable for the death of his victim."

 

Patterson's primary argument in the supreme court focused on "multiplicity," or the correctness of his two convictions for the single act of providing his victim with the Oxycodone, causing her death. The supreme court rejected Patterson's multiplicity argument, concluding in pertinent part that the two laws serve different purposes. From the court's decision:

 

First-degree reckless homicide by delivery of a controlled substance was created as a specific type of criminal homicide to prosecute anyone who provides a fatal dose of a controlled substance. Wis. Stat. § 940.02(2)(a). The legislature developed this law, often referred to as the Len Bias law, in the wake of the tragic death of a University of Maryland basketball star by the same name from a cocaine overdose. See Wis JI——Criminal 1021 n.1; Walter Dickey, David Schultz & James L. Fullin, Jr., The Importance of Clarity in the Law of Homicide: The Wisconsin Revision, 1989 Wis. L. Rev. 1323, 1351 n.97.

 

As discussed above in greater detail, § 948.40(1),(4)(a) is meant to protect children from those who would encourage them to become delinquent. See 1987 Wis. Act 332. The overarching goal of this statute is to protect children from harm by shielding them from the dangers of breaking the law.

. . . .

The aim of the reckless homicide by delivery of a controlled substance statute is preventing drug-related deaths by prosecuting those who distribute fatal doses of drugs. Wis. Stat. § 940.02(2)(a). The contributing to the delinquency of a child offense is meant to protect children from a number of different harms and provides increased deterrence through a more serious punishment when a death results. Wis. Stat. § 948.40(1), (4)(a). When a defendant's conduct implicates both of these offenses, as Patterson's conduct has, it is an especially grievous offense because he has not only caused a death by providing a controlled substance, but he has involved a child in that offense. In Patterson's case, it was the child's death that resulted. We conclude that multiple punishments are appropriate to deter such behavior.

 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court also rejected Patterson's separate challenges to the applicability of the delinquency statute in cases involving a 17-year-old victim, to the jury instructions given in his case, and to certain questions asked of witnesses by the prosecutor in the State's case-in-chief.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections records indicate that Patrick R. Patterson remains incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin.

 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision and opinion in State of Wisconsin v. Patrick R. Patterson, No. 2008AP1968-CR, appears at the court's website:
http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=56880

 

The Juneau County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Patterson in Juneau County Circuit Court. Assistant Attorney General Michael C. Sanders represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.