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“Elephant Tranquilizer” Too Potent To Be Shown In Court, Judge Says


As police nationwide struggle to deal with an opioid drug crisis, court administrators are beginning to question whether certain opioid drugs are so lethal that they cannot safely be used in courtrooms without posing a danger for judges, attorneys, security personnel, and others.

The chief judge who oversees Massachusetts trial courts is considering banning the powerful drugs¬†fentanyl and carfentanil from courtrooms, including as evidence, the Boston Herald is reporting. Carfentanil is described as an “elephant tranquilizer 100 times more powerful even than fentanyl,” and even small doses of fentanyl can be lethal, the report and other similar reports say. A few grains of carfentanil, about the size of a pin head, can be deadly, according to police. Both drugs have been uncovered in Massachusetts, police say.

The court’s concerns surround the “demonstrated potency and toxicity, the risk of accidental exposure,” and training required to “safely handle even those samples that have been securely packaged as evidence,” the Herald reports, quoting a letter written by Chief Judge Paula Carey.

The state bar association’s chief legal counsel called the drugs “potentially fatal.”

Though the courts are currently seeking input from prosecutors and defense attorneys about the proposed ban, the state’s association of district attorneys seems okay with it. The chief counsel at the state public defender’s office said defense attorneys would be open to discussing and then trying to cure any safety issues surrounding the presence of the drugs, but made it clear that defendants need to be sure any evidence used against them “is in fact what the government claims it is.”

[Image via Shutterstock.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.