On Monday, a federal jury in Boston begins their fourth week of deliberations in one of the highest profile prosecutions related to the opioid crisis.
The jurors are deciding the fate of pharmaceutical executive and onetime billionaire, John Kapoor, as well as four of his former colleagues at Insys Therapeutics. They are accused of bribing doctors to prescribe their company’s opioid painkiller and lying to insurance companies.
Kapoor’s trial began in mid-January, when there was snow outside Boston’s federal courthouse. By the time of closing arguments 10 weeks later, trees were in bloom. Now, as jury deliberations turn from days into weeks, lawyers, defendants and reporters are beginning to go stir crazy waiting for a verdict.
“This case is groundbreaking in a lot of ways,” said Chris Villani, a reporter for the legal journal Law360.
This is the first major criminal case against executives at an opioid manufacturing company.
“The game changer is actually putting an executive in prison,” Villani said. "This is a racketeering conspiracy charge — it carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Nobody ever gets the max but, still, there’s the chance of some significant prison time here.”
But Villani said this trial could become groundbreaking in another way, too: “Most of the parties, at some point, have informally remarked that this is the longest they’ve ever had a jury be out without coming back with a verdict.”
And, he said, something else is even more surprising. The jury has “not asked for any clarification on the law, any transcripts to be read back, any questions at all. That part’s really unusual.”
However, the jury has asked for time off, deliberating for only 11 days over three weeks.
This past week, one of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, filed a motion asking to return home to Michigan to await a verdict there. She said it’s too expensive to keep a hotel room in Boston.
Yet, the jury seems to be settling in. There are even reports about jurors getting gym memberships near the courthouse.
One explanation for the long deliberations is that this is a complex case with five defendants and numerous components to the racketeering charge.
But Daniel Medwed, a Northeastern University law professor and WGBH News legal analyst, said there’s another theory floating around. During jury selection, the judge prioritized picking jurors whose employers would keep paying them during the trial.
“They get paid without actually having to go to work,” said Medwed. “That could be an explanation — and not necessarily a good one — for the lengthy deliberation.”
As the deliberations stretch on, nobody agrees whether that’s better for the prosecution or for the defense.