AKRON, Ohio – A federal appeals court has reinstated the conviction of an Akron man found guilty of selling fentanyl to a woman who died of an overdose in 2015.
U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. in October 2018 overturned a jury’s guilty verdict that found Jurmaine Jeffries, 32, had sold the drugs that killed 52-year-old Jamie Huffer in Akron, writing that the jury was not given the proper legal direction before its deliberations.
A three-judge panel on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for the Northern District of Ohio reversed Oliver’s order Friday, denying Jeffries a new trial and reinstating sentencing on one count of distribution of fentanyl, which carries a sentence of at least 20 years.
Judge Alice Batchelder wrote the appellate court’s opinion and was joined by Judge Danny Boggs, while Judge Bernice Donald dissented, saying the language of the legal standards was ambiguous.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
Jeffries’ attorneys had argued, and Oliver agreed, that the jury should have heard about “proximate causation,” or whether an average person would have known it is possible that a drug user could die by taking the drugs Jeffries was accused of selling.
The appellate judges disagreed.
Akron police found Huffer dead on Sept. 15, 2015, in the attic of her home in the city’s Goodyear Heights neighborhood. Officers looked through her phone and saw that she had texted and called Jeffries several times that day, so they texted him, purporting to be Huffer and asking to buy more drugs, prosecutors said.
Jeffries arrived at the house a short time later and was arrested, police said. Officers reported that they found 38 grams of fentanyl in his possession.
Jeffries was also found guilty of a lesser charge of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, which was not contested. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.