By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A federal judge has issued an order sharply limiting the time prosecutors can take to present their case against the second major defendant in the criminal case stemming from a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
The order by U.S. District Judge Richard G, Stearns limits prosecutors to 60 hours to present their case against Glenn Chinn, who is facing second degree murder and racketeering charges. The order also would limit Chinn's lawyers to 20 hours. That would mean the trial, excluding jury deliberations, would last about four weeks.
Federal prosecutors responded by asking Stearn to amend his order and nearly double their allotted time to 100 hours to present their case in his Boston, Mass. courtroom. The time for cross examination would be included in that limit.
Chinn's lawyers responded by urging Stearns to reject the request from the U.S. Attorney William Weinreb and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan.
In setting the time limits, Stearns wrote,"The court will expand the times only on a showing of necessity as the trial proceeds.:
The dispute over the time limits comes in the wake of the 10 week marathon trial of co-defendant Barry J. Cadden.
Cadden, the one time president and part owner of the New England Compounding Center, was sentenced to a nine year prison term following his conviction on racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud charges.
Cadden and Chin are two of 14 persons connected to NECC to be indicted following a two year probe of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak which took the lives of 76 patients across the country. State and federal regulators concluded that fungus riddled steroids from NECC caused the outbreak.
Stearns served notice shortly after the Cadden trial began that he intended to place time limits on the subsequent trial. He told both sides to submit proposals setting limits.
Prosecutors initially proposed a 75 hour or six week limit to present its case exclusive of cross examination.
In urging Stearns to reject the request from prosecutors, Stephen Weymouth, Chin's lawyer said the judge's limit "fairly balances" the considerations set out in Stearns' February order.
"As the court's present and past experience teaches, time limits focus the presentation of the attorneys to the benefit of the jurors, the court and, ultimately, the lawyers themselves," Weymouth wrote.
Transcripts of bench conferences during the Cadden trial revealed that the judge and jurors were frustrated by the pace of the trial.