After 11 days, still no verdict in trial of former Insys drug executives
Not a peep.
The jury in the federal trial of five former drug company executives who allegedly bribed doctors to prescribe an opioid painkiller finished its 11th day of deliberations Thursday and still had not reached a verdict. The jury has yet to even send a note to the judge to ask a question, which is unusual for a trial that has gone on for three months.
Jurors are weighing whether the founder of Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics and four other former company executives participated in a racketeering conspiracy. The five allegedly bribed medical practitioners to prescribe a powerful fentanyl product to patients who shouldn’t have gotten it.
Subsys, an addictive under-the-tongue spray, was approved by federal regulators in 2012 for severe cancer-related pain. But prosecutors said Insys founder John N. Kapoor and the other defendants conspired to pay doctors to prescribe it to patients without cancer.
Racketeering cases are often difficult for juries because the law dealing with the crime is complicated. The verdict form is seven pages and requires jurors, if they deem a defendant guilty, to check off the underlying racketeering offenses that the individual committed.
Even so, lawyers involved in the case in Courtroom 17 have been surprised by how long deliberations have taken and by the fact that jurors haven’t asked a single question about the law or the evidence presented at trial.
The jury at US District Court in Boston began deliberating on April 8 but has had several weekdays off, including Patriots Day and Good Friday. The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations Monday because of a previously scheduled Friday off.
The trial is believed to be the first criminal trial of pharmaceutical executives who marketed an opioid painkiller since the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic began.
The lengthy deliberations have taken a financial toll on one of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, a former regional sales director who lives in Michigan but has had to stay in Boston to await the verdict, according to a motion by her lawyer. The attorney, Peter Horstmann, asked Judge Allison Burroughs to allow her to return home.
“Lee can no longer afford to pay for a hotel room,” Horstmann wrote, promising she would rush to the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., and appear via teleconference if a verdict came in.
“Lee’s youngest son is 10 and is enduring the stress of her continued absence,” Horstmann added.
Prosecutors opposed the motion. Burroughs hasn’t ruled yet.
The fifth-floor courtroom has been largely empty during deliberations except for several journalists, one or two defense lawyers, and one of the defendants, Joseph Rowan, another former regional sales manager.
Rowan has passed the time reading “An Invisible Thread,” a fact-based book about a sales executive who changed a poor boy’s life after a chance encounter.