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Justices to Look at Trial Over Drug-Linked Death

WASHINGTON (CN) - A man serving 20 years for dealing heroin to a drug user who died while high on it and several other drugs can fight his conviction in the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices said Monday.

Marcus Burrage was charged with heroin distribution resulting in a death and heroin distribution after the April 2010 death of Joshua Banka, a longtime, multiple drug user. Banka's wife, Tammy Noragon Banka, chose Marcus Burrage out of a photo lineup as "Lil C," the man who sold Banka the heroin he took in the hours leading up to his death.

Noragon Banka said she had also seen her husband use marijuana and oxycodone the day before he died. Authorities found those drugs, as well as alprazolam, clonazepam and baclofen, in the house.

A forensic toxicologist testified that heroin was a contributing factor to Banka's death, but he could not state that Banka would not have died if he had not taken heroin.

The medical examiner who conducted Banka's autopsy said his death was "very less likely" without the heroin, but she also could not state whether Banka would have died without it.

At trial, prosecutors also played a tape of a controlled buy between a confidential police informant and Lil C, as orchestrated by Iowa authorities in November 2009.

After the jury in Des Moines convicted Burrage of both counts and sentenced him to 20 years, Burrage took his appeal to the St. Louis, Mo.-based 8th Circuit.

They shot him down in August 2012, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted Burrage a writ of certiorari on Monday.

Per its custom, the court did not make any statement about its order.

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