Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drug victim responsible, trial hears

Willingly took pills, defence lawyer says

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An accused Winnipeg drug dealer bears no responsibility for the fatal overdose of one of his clients, the man's lawyer argued Friday.

Curtis Haas, 52, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and trafficking in the October 2007 death of 20-year-old Wendy Henry.

She stopped breathing after taking morphine allegedly given to her by Haas.

The high-profile trial ended Friday with closing arguments from defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk. He said Henry is ultimately responsible for the tragedy because she willingly ingested the tablets.

"Once a person has that in their hands, they have a choice of what they are going to do with it," Sawchuk told Queen's Bench Justice Gerald Chartier. Sawchuk said there is no evidence Haas even knew how much morphine Henry consumed, and she may have snuck some of the pills from his stash without his knowledge.

"We'll never know. And that makes a big difference," said Sawchuk.

Haas gave a series of statements to police in which he claimed, "You buy drugs from a drug dealer and take them, that's your responsibility."

But Crown attorney Anne Krahn told court it's not so simple.

"You can't just blame them because they took morphine pills you provided on an illegal basis," she said in her final argument Thursday. Henry and another woman who lived in the same apartment block as Haas both overdosed within 24 hours of each other. The other woman survived.

Chartier has reserved his verdict.

Haas originally told police Henry wanted the morphine from him to "get high." He later changed his story, claiming she needed it to deal with chronic pain. He also told a different version to a security guard in his building, claiming Henry had "gotten into" his stash.

"(Haas) wants you to believe he was just a helper, giving pain relief to people who needed it," said Krahn.

"He tends to minimize, to downplay his accountability for what happened here."

The case is believed to be the first in Manitoba in which an overdose death resulted in charges against the person alleged to have provided the drug. Winnipeg police have said similar arrests and prosecutions could follow if the case results in a conviction.

Haas told police he was a recovering addict and accident-prone, with the scars from many injuries to prove it.

He said he only took prescription medication, such as sleeping pills and Tylenol 3. Haas admitted acquiring "street morphine" but wouldn't identify the source.

Haas told detectives he met Henry when she went in his apartment block to visit her mother. When Henry overdosed, Haas called 911 and performed CPR.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 B3

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