Pharmacist In Deadly Meningitis Case Is Found Guilty Of Some Charges, But Not Murder

Oct 26, 2017
Originally published on October 26, 2017 1:58 pm

Rat-a-tat-tat came the verdicts.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. The jury had made its decision, bringing forth convictions for mail fraud, racketeering, for putting adulterated and misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud and mislead.

The verdicts came in a relentless chain of humiliation for Glenn Chin, the former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center.

And yet his attorneys were quietly overjoyed. They had beaten the murder charges.

“This was never, ever, ever, no matter what these prosecutors tell you — this was never a murder case, ever, ever, ever. They wanted it to be, but they’ve lost 50 times now on these murder cases,” said Chin’s attorney Stephen Weymouth.

Chin must await a December hearing to find out how long he will be sentenced to prison, but wakes up Thursday morning knowing he will not be sentenced to life.

That possibility disappeared Wednesday when a federal jury found the government had failed to prove Chin committed 25 second-degree murders connected to a national outbreak of fungal meningitis in 2012.

He and the New England Compounding Center were accused of carrying out a massive, life-threatening fraud that sickened 778 patients and killed 76. The patients had been injected with fungus-contaminated steroids produced under Chin’s supervision.

Chin had been charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of 25 victims. Prosecutors called his crime “depraved heart murder.” They argued Chin intentionally engaged in conduct so reckless it constituted wanton and willful disregard of life.

Indeed, one email from the company president, Barry Cadden, to Chin before the outbreak warned that unsanitary conditions in the so-called clean room were a catastrophe waiting to happen, that people would die.

The far-stretching murder charges were at the heart of the case. These were clearly the most serious ones and could have sent Chin to prison for life.

Unlike Cadden, who, as president and part-owner, was clearly the driver of the criminal enterprise that put profits before safety, Chin was a salaried employee with no motive to cut corners, the defense argued.

They presented a defense that Chin was both incompetent and a “yes man” put in a position to be a “yes man.”

“He was a licensed pharmacist. He had duties and responsibilities that he just didn’t follow through. So did Barry Cadden. And basically Glenn Chin is being held responsible,” said Weymouth.

But just as federal prosecutors had charged Cadden with murders of the same 25 patients but then failed to win convictions from the jury at his trial last spring, they failed again with Chin.

Prosecutors appeared stunned by the verdicts. In a written statement, acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb welcomed the convictions.

“Mr. Chin ran NECC’s clean room operations with depraved disregard for human lives,” he said.

But the verdicts are heartbreaking for the victims. Bill Thomas of Michigan is one of the many survivors still suffering from pain, mental confusion and a life of being homebound.

“It’s so disappointing to so many people. It’s just beyond me how so many people can be sickened and die, and there’s no second-degree murder verdict,” he said.

In an exchange with a government witness last week, defense attorney Robert Sheketoff said, “[Chin] should have quit his job … but that doesn’t mean you should find him guilty of murder.”

Sheketof intended the line as a closing argument to the jurors. And they didn’t find Chin guilty of murder. But they made it clear as a pharmacist Chin had been playing with dynamite and the dynamite had exploded, just like Cadden had predicted.

Cadden, the boss, got nine years. Chin’s attorney’s hope he’ll get less. His victory is not getting life.

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