Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead yesterday in his New York City apartment with a hypodermic needle in his arm. Found on the scene were various heroin envelopes — some empty, some full. The Daily Beast notes that some envelopes bore a logo of the Ace of Spades and others the Ace of Hearts. “Whoever sold Hoffman this brand of narcotic aided in his untimely death,” notes the Daily Beast.
CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield used this set of facts to leap into a tense debate with legal eagle Alan Dershowitz this morning on her program “Legal View.” Banfield asked Dershowitz if this was a case in which a drug dealer should be culpable of “felony murder” in the death of Hoffman. No way, replied Dershowitz: “You can make the case for felony murder. It would be an absurd application of an absurd law. … Here you have a man who was addicted, who went out and got the drugs from somebody. That somebody didn’t want him to die. He didn’t die because…”
Banfield interrupted: “That someone didn’t care. If they’re dealing in heroin, they don’t care.”
Dershowitz: “I don’t think that’s right…”
Banfield: “They’re worse than drunk drivers.”
After explaining his affection for Hoffman, Dershowitz noted, “This is a culture that exists and to start pinpointing responsibility for the person who provided him the drugs is a search for a scapegoat in a situation that requires a much more careful analysis and thinking about, ‘Let’s just get this guy who did it.’” Pursuing the dealer, said Dershowitz, is a “foolish quest.”
Banfield confessed: “You are smarter than I am, you are smarter than I am, but I will never leave this without saying that the guy who gave an addict the drug that killed him deserves to go away for life.”
That’s some extreme anchoring right there — provocative, too. Banfield, however, didn’t have much of a comeback to Dershowitz’s argument about the haphazard nature of the punishment she was advocating: “You’re playing Russian roulette,” said Dershowitz. “In this particular case, he died. In many cases, they don’t. So you’re going to pick and scapegoat and put this guy in jail for all the crimes that all the other [dealers] did.”
“With a sick man, yes…that’s just me,” said Banfield.