A Nova Scotia provincial court judge has reserved his decision in the case of a 22-year-old Annapolis Valley woman who has admitted to selling methadone to a friend who later died in hospital.
Kelsey Leanne Pynch, of Aylesford, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of trafficking. She admitted to selling methadone to Katanna MacDonald twice in the days before MacDonald was rushed to the Valley Regional Hospital suffering from a drug overdose in June 2012.
MacDonald's heart stopped and she died after she was taken off life support. She was 20 years old.
Pynch was initially charged with criminal negligence causing death, but the Crown determined it couldn't prove MacDonald's death was caused solely by the drug she bought from Pynch.
Before he would sentence Pynch on the trafficking charge, Judge Alan Tufts requested more information on methadone and the treatment program Pynch was in when she got the methadone.
"The judge in particular decided that he really wanted some questions answered," Don Fraser, the defence lawyer, said outside court.
"We arranged to get some people in who knew what they were talking about."
On Wednesday, court heard from the social worker who initially assessed Pynch for the program. Shondalee Jane Eisnor said Pynch had won enough trust from those running the Opiate Replacement Treatment Program at Annpolis Valley Health that she was allowed to take up to three daily doses home with her.
Sentence coming Dec. 23
At the time, Pynch was taking 115 milligrams of methadone a day, mixed with water and orange Tang. Eisnor told the court the last ingredient was to discourage users from trying to inject the methadone.
Court heard how Pynch's dosage had been gradually increased to the 115-milligram level.
"Bigger dosage, bigger risk?" Tufts asked.
"There is," Eisnor replied.
Dr. Achal Mishra, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction issues, told the court there are serious dangers involved in taking methadone. The chief one is how it can depress a person's breathing to the point where it stops.
The Crown is asking Tufts to sentence Pynch to jail time while the defence believes she should be allowed to serve a sentence in the community.
"I guess the biggest gap is whether or not it should be a conditional sentence," Fraser said outside court.
"I think my client realizes she's looking at a jail term. Then that becomes a question of whether it should be served on a conditional basis or straight time."
Tufts will hand down his sentence on Dec. 23.