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Drug dealer's third-degree murder conviction upheld


A drug dealer who sold heroin to a man — who overdosed and died less than two hours later at a Rochester halfway house — did play a role in the man’s death, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said this week.

The appellate court affirmed Darnell McDaniels’ third-degree murder conviction in Olmsted County District Court with a 20-page opinion issued Tuesday. McDaniels is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence for the March 2017 conviction.

The 55-year-old Rush City man challenged the Olmsted County judgment, contending the state presented evidence that was "insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction."

"Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular sale of drugs was the sale that caused the overdose is very difficult," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem in a statement. "Here, the statement of the victim along with McDaniels’ admission he sold to this victim before helped us make the connection."

That conviction stems from a Jan 22, 2015 incident, in which McDaniels sold heroin to Daniel Paul Kean at the Reza House, 1623 Fourth St. NW.


Surveillance video obtained from the halfway/recovery house showed McDaniels arriving at the house that day and walking into the room Kean and his roommate shared, court documents say. Two minutes later, McDaniels left the halfway house.

Kean was later found unresponsive by his roommate, who eventually testified in the case, telling police that he didn’t see any heroin paraphernalia in the room before McDaniels stopped by.

By the time police arrived, about an hour and 45 minutes later, Kean was dead. On March 2, 2015, the final toxicology results of his autopsy identified the cause of death as acute heroin and ethanol intoxication.

On April 12, 2015, authorities interviewed McDaniels, who acknowledged being at the Reza House and previously selling Kean heroin but denied any transaction that day. He claimed Kean asked him for heroin that day, but McDaniels was "out of product," court documents say.

Kean’s roommate was interviewed the day after McDaniels’ statement. He told police that he hadn’t seen any heroin paraphernalia in the room before McDaniels’ visit, but did see Kean and McDaniels shake hands, possibly indicating what law enforcement calls a hand-to-hand transaction.

McDaniels argued that some of the roommate’s testimony should not have been entered into the case as evidence. In upholding the conviction, the Court of Appeals disagreed.

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