Hunter Biden jury highlights toll of US drug epidemic

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Legend, Prosecutors will likely look into Hunter Biden’s drug addiction, a topic many potential jurors have said they were personally affected by.

  • Author, Rebecca Hartmann
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

In a Delaware courtroom, on the sidelines of a trial involving President Joe Biden’s son, the scale of America’s drug addiction epidemic was laid bare.

Jury selection in Hunter Biden’s trial on federal gun charges began Monday, with the court working from a randomly selected group of 65 people who appeared individually to answer a key question: could will they remain impartial during such a high-profile and politically charged trial? ?

Almost immediately, the magnitude of the drug addiction problem and its consequences in the United States emerged as a theme among the group. More than two dozen potential jurors said they knew someone who had suffered from drug abuse or addiction. Stories of daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers struggling with addiction came to light throughout the day.

The subject will play a central role in the trial, as prosecutors will look into the younger Biden’s crack cocaine use and seek to prove he knowingly lied about his drug habits when purchasing a gun in 2018. The defense, for its part, claims that the 54-year-old was in recovery at the time and was therefore honest when he said he was not a drug user. drug.

Given the prominence of addiction at trial, the court repeatedly heard personal testimony from potential jurors about how addiction had taken a toll on them.

“My childhood best friend died of an overdose,” one junior said. Another shared how their brother struggled with opioid addiction and was now in rehab. Someone else’s brother and brother-in-law were both addicted to alcohol and were now deceased.

One person explained how her nephew got a football scholarship to college but fell into drug addiction following a shoulder injury. “They kept giving him [oxycontin], then he left their football program, he was a mess,” they told the court. “He got in trouble, he robbed the bar [and] restaurant he worked at and he was a drug addict at the time.

The first-hand accounts, sometimes moving, could be replicated across the United States, with the sheer number of stories emerging from all 65 testimonies highlighting how widespread the problem is.

One man broke down crying, explaining that their nephew and brother-in-law had struggled with drug addiction. “I can say this is a very emotional thing for you,” the judge said, “I know it’s difficult and I’m very sorry.”

Another potential juror recounted how their sister was jailed for credit card fraud and drug charges. She suffered from addiction, but was currently clean. One person’s brother was “doing better” now that he was in rehab for opioid addiction.

Video caption, Expert: Fentanyl crisis has ‘only gotten worse’

The whirlwind of personal stories is a trend that is reflected nationally. A study released in May 2024 by Johns Hopkins University found that one in three Americans knows someone who has died of a drug overdose. For 20% of people who participated in this survey, it was a family member or close friend who had died.

Matthew Eisenberg, director of mental health and substance abuse policy at Johns Hopkins University, said the jury’s experience reflected that of the entire U.S. population.

“Nearly one in three people suffer from a substance abuse or mental health disorder at some point in the United States,” he told BBC News. “About 16 to 17 percent of people reported having an addiction problem in the past year.”

Many potential jurors spoke about their loved ones struggling with opioids or heroin, but other addictions were also mentioned. And while the opioid epidemic gets a lot of attention because of its scale, Eisenberg said, it’s important to note that there are other serious problems as well.

“Ten percent of adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder,” he said.[and] 3% of people suffer from a similar alcohol and drug use disorder.

Biden Hunter has been open about his struggle with addiction, writing at length about his crack habit in his 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things, and mentioning it in interviews.

“Look, everyone deals with pain,” he told The New Yorker in 2019. “There’s an addiction in every family. I was in this darkness. I was in this tunnel – it’s an endless tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You find out how to deal with it.

And his father also spoke about the problem and his support for his son. “My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Mr. Biden said during the first presidential debate in 2020. “He got over it, he got over it. fixed it, he worked on it, And I’m proud of him.

The importance of support from family members was also a sentiment expressed in the courtroom earlier this week.

“I have a daughter who is a recovering drug addict,” one jury member told the court. “And I think once everyone gets better, they need a second chance.” My daughter got a second chance, everyone needs a second chance.

The scene in the Delaware courtroom showed how the case has affected families from all walks of life in the United States, including those occupying the White House. Few people escaped unscathed.

“Addiction is a disease that affects people of all education levels, income levels, races and ethnicities, as well as all ages,” Eisenberg said, noting, however, that there were disparities in access to treatment.

After a day of sorting jurors, four of the final 12 jurors participating in the trial know someone who has struggled with addiction. Two of the alternates were also personally affected by the problem.

“I have lost many friends to drug overdoses,” one deputy told the court. “I feel like it’s an everyday part of the world these days.”

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