Monday, February 15, 2016
Judge Rejects Appeal on Meningitis Records
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A federal judge has soundly rejected the appeal of defendants in the criminal fungal meningitis case who were seeking a review of thousands of records to find potentially exculpatory or favorable evidence.
U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns upheld a Dec. 4 ruling by Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal who had ruled federal prosecutors did not have to search through the evidence for possible exculpatory evidence that would have assisted the defendant's claims of innocence.
"The government represents that it has provided the defendants with all memoranda of interview and agent notes in its possession, and defendants have offered no reason to believe
otherwise." Stearns wrote in the decision filed last week.
He concluded "the demand that the government identify and designate all known Brady (exculpatory) material amidst the millions of documents thus far produced," was unwarranted.
The ruling comes in the case of 14 owners and former employees of the New England Compounding Center, who have been hit with charges ranging from mail and wire fraud to second degree murder. The charges stem from an investigation into a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 778 patients, killing 76.
NECC shipped thousands of vials of fungus riddled steroids that were injected into the spines and joints of unsuspecting patients in 2012.
The trial of those defendants was recently delayed by Stearns for five months until Sept. 8.
Noting that an earlier ruling found the defendants' request for additional discovery a "make-work order of no particular benefit," Stearns added that he was baffled by the claim that the mishandling of small pox vials by a federal agency "has any connection to this case."
He said other issues raised in the appeal would be more properly considered during consideration of the defendants pending motion for dismissal of the charges.
He also concluded that Boal was correct in denying the defendants' request for access to the minutes of the grand jury that handed up the indictments.