After 52 hours of deliberation over eight days, a federal jury yesterday declared it was hopelessly deadlocked in deciding whether attorneys William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. defrauded clients of $65 million in Kentucky’s 2001 fen-phen settlement.
After the judge declared a mistrial, the jury foreman, Donald Rainone of Erlanger, said jurors were stuck at 10-2 to acquit the defendants, and had been at that vote for much of their deliberations.
“We felt the prosecution just didn’t have a strong enough case,” Rainone said in a phone interview in which he strongly criticized the prosecution for being unprepared and focusing its case on only Gallion, Cunningham and a third lawyer, Melbourne Mills Jr.
“There’s a lot of people that had their hand in this,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that should have been on trial that weren’t.”
Rainone declined to say who else should have been on trial, saying he didn’t want to “get sued.”
Of course, that the prosecution failed to indict participants in the fen-phen scam who also stole from tens of thousands to tens of millions doesn’t explain why one votes to acquit the criminal defendant attorneys who stole millions–except for the fact that the defendants were able to blame the empty chair for their actions. If the defendants’ allegations about Stan Chesley’s role are half true, the question remains why Ohio disciplinary authorities have not so much as opened an investigation, much less failed to disbar him. But we will perhaps learn more as the civil trial progresses. Meanwhile, as Peter Bronson writes, “giving immunity to someone so powerful, wealthy and politically wired was everything that destroys public trust in the justice system.”
Judge William O. Bertelsman, who has taken senior status, has recused himself from the retrial; the new judge, Danny Reeves, will likely be requested to lower the eight-digit bond for Gallion and Cunningham, who remain in jail. Melbourne Mills, who was acquitted, says he has already spent the $20 million he was paid for his role in the case–a case his lawyer told a jury that he was too drunk to work on and didn’t understand the underlying law. Nice work if you can get it.
Off-the-record reports I am receiving about the trial blame prosecutors’ performance (such as failing to object to defendant expert opinion that contradicted the facts) and Judge Bertelsman’s instructions to the jury; it also seems to me that the defendants were given far too much leeway to argue the law before the jurors when the judge should have given a straightforward instruction that the underlying case was or was not a class action covering all future Kentucky claimants rather than allow argument over that simple legal question. (Answer: it wasn’t. The settlement with AHP explicitly says it’s a lump-sum settlement for existing plaintiffs requiring the attorneys to comply with Rule 1.8, and there is no indemnification provision contrary to defense testimony arguing otherwise.)