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Jury Is Still Out In Case Involving Opioid-Maker

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Tomorrow, a federal jury in Boston begins its 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 one-time 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. Gabrielle Emanuel of member station WGBH has more on the jury's lengthy deliberations.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: Kapoor's trial began in mid-January, when there was snow outside Boston's federal courthouse. By the time it came to 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.

CHRIS VILLANI: This case is groundbreaking in a lot of ways.

EMANUEL: Chris Villani is a reporter for the legal journal Law360. He's been here day in and day out. This is the first major criminal case against executives at an opioid manufacturing company.

VILLANI: The game changer is actually putting an executive in prison. This is a racketeering conspiracy charge. It carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

EMANUEL: But Villani says this trial could become groundbreaking in another way too.

VILLANI: 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.

EMANUEL: And he says something else is even more surprising.

VILLANI: They've not asked for any clarification on the law, any transcripts to be read back, any questions at all. So that part is really unusual.

EMANUEL: But they have asked for time off, deliberating for only eleven 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, saying it's too expensive keeping a hotel room in Boston. But 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 law professor, says there's another theory floating around. During jury selection, the judge prioritized picking jurors whose employers would keep paying them during the trial.

DANIEL MEDWED: They get paid without actually having to go to work. And that could be an explanation, and not necessarily a good one, for the lengthy deliberation.

EMANUEL: As the deliberations stretch on, nobody agrees whether that's better for the prosecution or for the defense. For NPR News, I'm Gabrielle Emanuel in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.