Prosecutors charge drug dealers with third-degree murder

The trial begins this week for a Maplewood woman accused of selling drugs linked to five deaths.

Hennepin County prosecutors charged Bevery Burrell with third-degree murder for three of the deaths, though she faces additional charges in other counties.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he is using third-degree murder against drug dealers a lot more due to the opioid epidemic--charging 11 drug dealers with third-degree murder in the last three years.

Freeman sees the murder statute as “specifically authored by the legislature to attack this kind of conduct: selling bad dope and killing someone.”

Other counties have also charged drug dealers with third-degree murder.

The Washington County Attorney has charged four drug dealers in the last few years, including two teens linked to the death of a Woodbury High School student in January 2014.

The Ramsey County Attorney only charged one drug dealer with third-degree murder in the last three years—a man linked to the overdose of a woman at a hotel.

"Drug cases are always tough ... if it’s a small-time dealer selling to feed their habit, that’s one thing," Freeman said. "But you’re not a small time dealer if you’re selling heroin with bad stuff in it that’s going to kill someone. I don’t have any empathy or sympathy for that.”