It’s long been said that opioid addiction affects all types of people in all walks of life. But when a judge overdoses and dies, well, that saying takes on a whole new dimension.
Just ask the folks in the Guilford County Courthouse, who recently lost Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell. First they were stunned by the loss of one of their own. Now they are shocked to learn just how he was lost.
That’s what happens when a judge overdoses and dies.
Yes, an autopsy released by the Guilford County Medical Examiner lists the longtime judge’s official cause of death as “heroin and fentanyl intoxication.”
Judge Jarrell was found unresponsive on the bedroom floor of his home on August 3rd during a welfare check. Law enforcement also found a plastic baggie with a powder substance in his pocket, as well as a pocket knife and a piece of paper containing a powder substance in the bathroom.
He was 56 years old.
Who’s Who of Good Guys
After news of the judge’s overdose spread across the country one stunned commenter said Jarrell’s resume read like “a Who’s Who of good guys.”
And indeed it did.
According to the Greensboro News and Record, “Jarrell graduated from Campbell University School of Law in 1991 and practiced law in High Point before being hired in 1992 as an assistant district attorney.”
North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt appointed Jarrell District Court judge in 1999. In 2016 he was appointed chief District Court judge. Jarrell remained in that position until his death.
The judge “served as president of the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges and on a variety of boards, including the N.C. Governors Crime Commission.”
He also helped create Street Safe (a program that allows young people to learn proper driving techniques from law enforcement), as well as North Carolina’s first DWI Traffic Court (in order to decrease the backlog of pending DWI cases in Guilford County).
Former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes was one of many in the local Piedmont community who posted their thoughts after learning of the judge’s overdose.
“Today, I heard some shocking news from the autopsy of friend and former Judge Tom Jarrell. Shocking because it listed heroin and fentanyl as contributing factors in his death. Tom was a great judge and valued member of the criminal justice system. His death shows this epidemic can and does touch anybody, anywhere, anytime. I hope this revelation, while devastating to many, can be a wake up call to others. If you or someone you know has a problem, GET HELP. I think Tom would tell you the same if he could.”