No plea deal, just immunity. Nice deal if you can get it, I guess. Sounds to me like the girl set the whole damn thing up…and she gets to walk thanks to your county attorney. See a bit of prosecutorial misconduct?

Jury finds Cloquet man guilty of third-degree murder
By Tom Olsen on Nov 11, 2015 at 10:15 p.m.

CARLTON — There was never a doubt that Paul Duane Mrosla’s death was caused by ingesting a prescription Fentanyl patch.

Likewise, no one was disputing that Mrosla obtained the drug from the Cloquet home of Robert Todd Ferguson in January 2014.

At issue in a Carlton County courtroom this month was exactly who gave the fatal dose of the potent painkiller to the 25-year-old Carlton man.

After hearing more than a week of testimony, a jury said Wednesday night that Ferguson was responsible for Mrosla’s death. The nine-woman, three-man panel convicted Ferguson on a charge of third-degree murder after four hours of deliberation.

The case presented a rare example of a defendant going to trial on a third-degree murder charge. While the charge traditionally is not frequently invoked by prosecutors, it is increasingly being used in overdose cases in an effort to crack down on drug dealers and suppliers.

Mrosla died of an overdose in the driveway of his parents’ Carlton home, where he had been driven by Ferguson’s daughter, Charity, shortly after ingesting the drug at the Ferguson’s Cloquet residence on Jan. 15, 2014.

Carlton County prosecutors argued to jurors on Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Mrosla purchased the patch from Ferguson. Defense attorneys contended that the drug was provided by his daughter.

Assistant St. Louis County prosecutor Michael Boese relied heavily on the testimony of Charity Ferguson in his hourlong closing argument to jurors Wednesday. He said she admitted playing a role in arranging the deal.

“Charity Ferguson knew her father had a prescription for Fentanyl,” Boese told jurors. “She had seen her father with patches. She set the deal up, and I submit to you that at some point Robert Ferguson agreed to it.”

Robert Ferguson, 52, took the witness stand in his own defense earlier in the day. He told the court that he had been using Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, since about 1998 to alleviate chronic pain brought on by multiple car accidents.

Ferguson testified that he arrived home on Jan. 15 and found his daughter and two men, who he did not know, in the house. Ferguson said his daughter was no longer welcome in the home due to past issues, and he asked her to leave.

The defendant testified that he never gave or sold a Fentanyl patch to the men and said he was unsure how they would have obtained it.

The testimony was significantly different than that of Charity Ferguson, who took the stand earlier in the week. She testified that she brought Mrosla and a friend, Mark Brenner, there for the purpose of buying the patch. The two men divided the patch and ingested the drug, she said.

Charity Ferguson added that the men left briefly to go to an ATM for cash to pay for the drug. They returned and Mrosla exchanged money for the patch, she testified.

Defense attorney Joanna Wiegert suggested in her 25-minute closing argument that Charity Ferguson’s testimony was self-serving and loaded with inconsistencies.

Wiegert noted that the daughter initially was under suspicion and could have faced charges before she was granted immunity by authorities in June 2014 in exchange for her cooperation.

“Once she got immunity, she wasn’t facing criminal charges,” Wiegert said. “Then she tells them exactly what they want to hear.”

Sixth Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers read a special instruction about Charity Ferguson’s testimony to jurors before they began deliberations Wednesday.

Because of her position as an accomplice who was granted immunity, the judge told jurors that they could not rely solely on Charity Ferguson’s testimony to return a guilty verdict.

Boese made the case to jurors in his closing argument that there was sufficient evidence to support her claims, pointing to text messages exchanged earlier that day between Mrosla and Brenner, along with a receipt from the ATM.

“There is plenty of corroboration,” Boese said. “You can make reasonable inferences from the evidence.”

The case could serve as a test of the ability of authorities to prosecute drug overdose cases in Minnesota.

State law reads that a person can be convicted of third-degree murder if he or she “without intent to cause death, proximately causes the death of a human being by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II.”

Notably, the charge was brought against five Twin Cities-area teens in January 2014 after a 17-year-old Woodbury girl overdosed on a synthetic drug.

In the Northland, an Itasca County man initially faced the charge after providing a Fentanyl patch to his wife, but it was later reduced to second-degree manslaughter. A third-degree murder charge also is pending against an Eveleth man who allegedly provided a fatal dose of a psychedelic drug to his girlfriend.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

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