Drug dealer challenged judge’s understanding of drugs in court

Fans of English-language dramas have probably watched Suits, a hit TV series featuring lawyers from a New York law firm. Packed with new-age philosophies and dramatic arguments, the drama’s storyline involves a team of skilled lawyers who can impress juries with their bold choice of words.

However, sassiness in the courtroom is certainly not exclusive to dashing lawyers like Harvey Specter. In a criminal trial that took place in Nghệ An on 12th April, a plaintiff involved in a drug dealing case, told the judge, “Your Honor doesn’t use drugs, so you don’t understand.”

The context? He was trying to convince the judge that he was under the influence of drugs during the alleged crime. We take you through the play-by-play of how the dramatic scene played out IRL.

Three friends were put on trial for operating a drug dealing ring

drug dealer challenged judge
Image adapted from: Tòa Án Nghệ An

On 12th April, Nguyễn Cảnh Vinh, Phan Văn Phiên, and Trần Khắc Bảy were put on trial for drug dealing, drug trafficking, and possession of drugs. The indictment alleged that Vinh was responsible for transporting the drugs, while Phiên and Bảy would take charge of selling them for VND200,000,000 (~USD8,715) per kilogram. 

On 25th and 26th February, Vinh delivered 1.4KG of heroin and 3KG of drugs to Bảy in Nghệ An and the two went around having fun for 2 days. After that, Bảy left for Đắk Nông to ship the goods to Phiên.

During his journey as a shipper, he was arrested by local policemen while riding a cab. After Bảy’s arrest, his other two partners were also quick to join him in prison and later in court.

Drug dealer attempts to judge the judge

drug dealer challenged judge
Vinh pleading his case
Image adapted from: Soha

At court, Bảy pleaded guilty while Phiên and Vinh denied the charges. Vinh denied knowing Bảy and claimed that he was unaware that Bảy was carrying drugs while they were driving together. The judge then asked Vinh why he and Bảy still hung out for 2 days if they didn’t know each other.

In response, Vinh said that he was under the influence of drugs at the time and not of sound mind when he was driving Bảy around. Besides, Vinh claimed that he only hung out with Bảy because he had promised his other friend to do so.

“That means you did use drugs and had hallucinations?” the judge questioned Vinh.

Instead of giving the judge a simple “Yes” or “No” answer, Vinh challenged the judge directly.

“Your Honor doesn’t use drugs, so you don’t understand. Once you snort heroin, you just get carried away very easily. It would give you strong urges to fulfill your promises and help people out at all costs. In my case, I promised Phiên that I’d hang out with Bảy and I had to honor my promise.”

In the end, Vinh’s passionate plea and understanding of drugs couldn’t save him. He and Phiên received capital punishments, and Bảy was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime

There are plenty of reasons why people get involved in drugs. Whatever these reasons are, the consequences that drug users and dealers face when they get brought to justice remain the same. Drug abuse may result in severe consequences for a few moments of pleasure – for instance, imprisonment or a death sentence.

Vinh’s confidence to challenge the judge on the stand aside, it probably wasn’t appropriate to pass judgment on the judge in return. Although the judge might lack experience in actual drug use, he knows its consequences well.

Hopefully, this case also teaches us that rationalising our crimes at the point of being charged in court, isn’t going to do us any favors. As the famous saying goes, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

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Cover image adapted from: Soha and Kiểm Sát

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