Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Prosecution Witness Grilled and Scolded
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
BOSTON, Mass.- A key prosecution witness was grilled and scolded today by the attorney for the man charged with 25 counts of second degree murder stemming from a lengthy probe of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
In questioning that lasted more than three hours, Bruce Singal, attorney for Barry J. Cadden, repeatedly told Eric S. Kastango that he was the one asking the questions. He cut Kastango's answers short several times, charging that the witness was not answering the question.
"You inserted a phrase in your answer that was not part of the question," Singal said at another point.
The sharp exchanges between Singal and Kastango were hyphenated by objections raised by Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese, the lead prosecutor.
Several times U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns told Singal to move on to another line of questioning.
"I think we're losing focus," Stearns said after one exchange. "Lets see if we can move this along."
"You're losing whatever point you were trying to make," Stearns said later in the session.
Singal, using published articles by Kastango himself, questioned whether Kastango had not raised questions about the pharmacy and sterility standards set forth by the non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeia.
Prosecutors have charged that Cadden, as head of the now defunct New England Compounding Center, failed to follow the non-profits standards thus putting patients as risk.
The charges stem from the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, which sickened 778 patients killing 78 of them.
On Tuesday the death toll climbed again when Evelyn Bates-March, 86, a Michigan victim passed away after a long battle to recover from fungal meningitis.
"God has another Angel. Mom fought long and hard but she lost the battle early this morning. She went peacefully. Please say a prayer for her. Love, hugs and prayers to all," Pugh wrote on a blog for victims of the outbreak.
Singel's questioning of Kastango, who was qualified as an expert witness, followed lengthy testimony he gave Tuesday supporting his conclusion that NECC did not meet the industry standards thus placing patients at grave risk.
Kastango, a pharmacist, was hired by the government to assist them in the investigation of the outbreak and disclosed he was paid $225 an hour for 100 hours of work. He is being paid $300 an hour for his court testimony.
Singal questioned Kastango about training materials from his consulting company that omitted part of a section of the U.S. Pharmacopeia on what steps should be taken in the event mold is found in a clean room where sterile drugs are being prepared.
"It didn't reflect the intent of the section," Kastango said.
Singal then charged that Kastango left it out, "because you didn't like it."
He said the full wording limited the testing for mold to air samples and mold was found at NECC by other testing methods.
Singal produced an NECC order form for chemicals to kill spores to refute Kastango's earlier statement that NECC's cleaning efforts were ineffective against mold and fungus.
He produced another document attempting to show that it was an outside testing company that told NECC to send only two samples from each drug lot for testing.
Kastango testified Tuesday that the U.S. Pharmacopeia called for testing at least four and up to 20 samples dependent on the size of the lot.
"I have a problem when they don't send enough samples," Kastango reiterated today.
When Varghese attempted to register one last objection, Stearns turned him down.
"You'll have a chance on redirect... unfortunately," Stearns said, bringing a wave of laughter from jurors and spectators.