Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Judge Seeks Limits on Next NECC Trial
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
With the current trial winding up its eighth week with no end in sight, the federal judge presiding over the criminal trials stemming from the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak is moving to limit the length of the next scheduled case.
In a six-page order issued this week U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns has instructed lawyers for the defendant, Glenn Chin, and federal prosecutors to submit proposed time limits for the jury trial.
The action comes as the case against Barry J. Cadden is approaching a third month and the prosecution has yet to wrap up its side of the case.
The charges against Chin mirror those against Cadden, racketeering and 25 counts of second degree murder among other charges.
They were among 14 people connected to the New England Compounding Center indicted following a lengthy probe of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak. Two of the 14 have pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Two others have had all charges dismissed.
Cadden was president and part owner of NECC. Chin was a supervising pharmacist.
The remaining defendants are slated to go on trial after the Chin case is completed.
In the order issued by Stearns he cited the advantages of setting such limits and noted there are precedents for such a process.
"It enables the court to efficiently manage its docket" and "improves the quality of jury comprehension," Stearns wrote.
Stearns wrote that he had additional concerns about "the phenomenon of mega-trials, that is trials, the duration of which are measured in months not days."
He also expressed concern of the effect on jurors in trials that "consume an inordinate amount of the court's time and focus."
The outbreak, caused by fungus riddled drugs shipped by NECC to health care providers across the country, sickened 778 people and killed 78 of them.