Two Pharmacists are Accused of Second-degree murder in Meningitis Outbreak

(DEBRA CASSENS WEISS) A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses two pharmacists of second-degree murder in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed at least 64 people and injured about 750 others.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced the 131-count indictment Wednesday against the pharmacists and 12 other people associated with the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, report Reuters, the Atlantic, USA Today and the Boston Globe. A press release is here.

Prosecutors say the outbreak was caused by contaminated steroids produced in unsafe conditions and shipped across the country by NECC. Compounding pharmacies like NECC are licensed to mix custom medications for hospitals and doctors.

The indictment alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and claims 25 predicate acts of second-degree murder by the two pharmacists, NECC co-founder Barry Cadden, 48, and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chinn, 46. Those charges claim the pharmacists acted with extreme indifference to human life and relate to 25 patients who died in seven states.

“Production and profit were prioritized over safety,” Ortiz said at a Boston press conference. Senior pharmacists were aware of “filthy conditions” in labs that were “thoroughly contaminated,” she alleged.

The RICO charges alleged that NECC acted with a related company to form a criminal enterprise that obtained money through materially false premises.

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Judge Says Lawyer’s Error Not Enough to Overturn Conviction

(Joel Stashenko) A defense lawyer’s decision not to call his forensics expert to the stand because the attorney misunderstood procedural rules of expert testimony did not deprive his client of meaningful representation, a judge ruled.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Albert Tomei (See Profile) denied defendant Gregory Morency’s CPL §440.10 motion to vacate his conviction and 15-year sentence for manslaughter based on Morency’s contention that errors by his 18-B assigned counsel, Kleon Andreadis, represented ineffective assistance of counsel.

Chiefly, Morency, in People v. Morency, 607/2008, took issue with the lawyer’s decision not to call defense forensics expert James Gannalo to the stand to rebut testimony from the prosecution’s expert about the 2008 shooting which resulted in the death of Morency’s girlfriend, Maribal Hernandez.

Andreadis said he asked Gannalo to attend the trial and listen to testimony from prosecution expert Edward Hueske, so Gannalo could immediately advise Andreadis what to ask Hueske during cross-examination.

Tomei said Andreadis, who had more than 20 years’ experience as a defense attorney, mistakenly believed that Gannalo could not be in the courtroom to hear Hueske’s testimony and still be called as a witness for the defense.

Tomei pointed out, however, that under the state Court of Appeals’ ruling in People v. Santana, 80 NY2d 92 (1992), the reasons precluding a fact witness from hearing the testimony of other fact witnesses during a trial do not apply to expert witnesses. Therefore, Gannalo was free to both hear Hueske’s testimony and to testify himself.

The judge noted that Andreadis also opted not to hire a second expert witness to appear in Gannalo’s stead, preferring to let his cross-examination of Hueske suffice to cast doubts on the prosecution’s expert.

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Former Lawmaker Faces Spouse-abuse Case; AG’s Office Says Wife’s Dementia Precluded Consent to Sex

By all accounts, Donna Lou Young and Henry Rayhons were happily married.

But the former Iowa lawmaker is now awaiting trial in a felony spouse-abuse case. He is accused of having sex with his wife in a nursing home when she was allegedly incapable of consent because of her dementia, Bloomberg reports in a lengthy article.

The case against Rayhons was initiated by his wife’s daughters from a previous marriage and staff at the nursing home at which they had urged him to place his wife. Rayhons, who says he did nothing wrong, visited his wife there frequently. She died in August at age 78.

It is not clear that the state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, can even show that the couple had sex on the day in question, in May of this year, according to the Bloomberg article.

Meanwhile, observers with expertise in elder law issues and nursing home administration told the news agency they considered the medical assessment of Donna Lou Young’s ability to consent to sex inadequate. She could be unable to balance a checkbook, one pointed out, but eager to have sex with her husband, just as she would be able to determine when she was hungry and ready for a meal.

“Any partner in a marriage has the right to say no,” said professor Katherine Pearson of Penn State Dickinson School of Law. “What we haven’t completely understood is, as in this case, at what point in dementia do you lose the right to say yes?”

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Jailed Lawyer Says Judge Illegally Ordered Drug Test on His Urine

(Katheryn Hayes Tucker and Kathleen Baydala Joyner) A former Fulton County prosecutor who is fighting to limit the damage drug convictions will have on his legal career was jailed in Cobb County by a judge who suspected the lawyer was again under the influence.

Rand Csehy contends he was simply advocating for his client’s constitutional rights when Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs held him in contempt and illegally ordered a urine sample for a drug test, according to his attorney, Daniel Kane. Kane also said Csehy maintains that test produced a false positive result.

Kane said his client “maintains the judge was agitated” because Csehy was insisting on a motion to suppress and for a jury trial for his client, who also faced drug charges.

“Rand feels that he was being pressured to plead this guy out and he wasn’t doing it,” said Kane.

The judge, who declined to comment, painted a different picture in her contempt order against the six-foot-tall, 195-pound, hazel-eyed defense attorney, as his booking record describes Csehy. Grubbs wrote that he was “disheveled,” that he was “perspiring profusely,” that his eyes were “bloodshot” and that he was “unable to stand without leaning on a bench or the podium.” The judge added that the court-ordered drug test showed the presence of cocaine and amphetamines.

Kane argued that the judge jailed his client on an “I don’t like the way you look in my courtroom” charge. He said he is researching the law to determine whether a judge has a right to order a urine test of anyone in a courtroom for any reason—other than a defendant. “It’s never happened before,” Kane said. “It’ll be a case of first impression.”

On the question of the judge’s right to order urine testing on a lawyer, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said, “That’s probably what we’re going to be litigating.”

As to the claim that the urine test produced a false positive, Reynolds said the matter will be settled by a more time-consuming blood test, the results of which will likely be in next week. If the blood test shows drugs, then the DA said he will make a decision about whether to prosecute Csehy.

“A suspension of one to two years for [Csehy’s] criminal conduct would most certainly disrupt public confidence in the legal profession,” the bar argued.

The bar noted that Csehy’s crimes involved drugs and a loaded gun.

“[Csehy] made the conscious decision to carry a pistol loaded with 15 10mm cartridges while possessing methamphetamines and Ecstasy,” the bar’s response stated. “There was a substantial potential for violence given the number of guns [Csehy] routinely had in his possession during a time that he was admittedly impaired.”

Graham, Csehy’s lawyer in the discipline case, could not be reached for comment.

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Nonprofit funds Drug Prosecutor and Cops, who Turn Addicts into Informants

(Debra Cassens Weiss) A nonprofit group formed by business leaders in Altoona, Pennsylvania, has funded a drug prosecutor and police efforts to fight the drug trade.

The nonprofit, Operation Our Town, and the drug-busting operations it funds are drawing some critics, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. They argue the group is funding police tactics that turn drug users into informants, and other users into drug dealers, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports in a separate story.

Altoona uses so many informants, one informant told the newspaper, that the joke is that the city’s new name is “Al-tell-on-ya.”

Operation Our Town has received more than $2 million in donations in its eight-year existence, and typically more than half of the money goes to the Blair County District Attorney’s office, the story says. The money covers the salary of a prosecutor hired for drug cases, as well as support staff.

The DA also uses the money to help the police department buy equipment and pay for police overtime.

One informant, 27-year-old Juniper Eugene Robbins of Altoona, told the Post-Gazette that he made about 20 drug purchases while working undercover. “I picked certain people based on crap they did to me or my friends,” Robbins told the newspaper. “I didn’t want to take anybody big down,” he said, because he feared retaliation.

According to the story, it was common for crime victims to hire prosecutors in the 1800s, but the idea has lost favor.

If you have been accused of criminal intent and you are going into criminal litigation, your top and only priority will be to find an experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive criminal lawyer to go to bat for you.

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And then Ferguson

(Marcia L. McCormick) The start of the semester is always a bit of a frenzied mess. I’m usually rushing to revise my syllabi, get a head start on finer tuned preparation for classes, finish up a summer project, find my grown-up clothes, and get my kids organized for the start of their school year. This year was no different. And then a police officer shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, one of the ninety municipalities in St. Louis County. And then people started protesting, there was looting and a fire one night, and law enforcement engaged in a number of strategies to shut down the protests, including curtailing speech at night, prohibiting people from standing still on the city streets and sidewalks, and using tanks, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Much of the events were broadcast over live video feeds, so that people near and far could watch what was unfolding. In short, the metro St. Louis area was caught up in the turmoil, and between the public’s demand for answers and the focus of the national media, the demand for information about the law and the federal, state, and local legal systems was incredibly high. In addition, the demand for legal services and public outreach within the community was incredibly high. Those of us in the region who work in areas related to criminal law and criminal procedure, civil rights, race, the First Amendment, or other areas related to poor people and their interests were constantly on call for at least the first few weeks. We also had a responsibility to ensure that colleagues and students who lived in Ferguson were safe and supported, and that we were helping our students understand the issues and their relationship to the community as future lawyers.

After the jump I want to highlight the ways that my colleagues, students, and a group of SLU alumni jumped in with both feet to serve the community we are a part of and to empower them to work for needed reforms. Much of the groundwork had actually been laid well before the protests and police response through ongoing projects to serve underserved communities. Before I do that, I want to emphasize a broader point. It is often difficult, in the midst of things, to recognize the important moments, moments when our students and the communities we serve need to see us in a variety of lawyerly roles, or moments when we need to act because we can and others cannot. To me, the most remarkable part of the stories related to Ferguson is that many people recognized their moment, and many people chose to act. For a law school committed to social justice, to training men and women to service with others, recognition of the moment and action were particularly important and helped to renew at least my faith in that mission.

So now, let me highlight some of the important contributions that lawyers and students in the St. Louis community have made.

1. Arch City Defenders. Last year, Eric Miller highlighted the work of this 501(c)(3) entity, which provides holistic civil and criminal legal services to low income people in connection with other social services. In August, they issued a white paper, describing both abuses that violate the law in municipal court proceedings, and the way that the system of municipal violations and municipal court proceedings “push the poor further into poverty, prevent the homeless from accessing the housing, treatment, and jobs they so desperately need to regain stability in their lives, and violate the Constitution.” This white paper addresses several root causes of the alienation that led to the protests in Ferguson.

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