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Doctor's Fate Now In the Hands of the Jury

Feb. 13, 2007 — After deliberating for about four hours Tuesday, a 12-member jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case against Paul Maynard, a St. Thomas doctor charged with illegally prescribing pain medication to patients. The jury will resume its deliberations Wednesday morning.
During Tuesday's District Court trial, the jury heard closing statements by both the defense and prosecuting attorneys before commencing its deliberations just after noon.
Around 5 p.m., the panel called it a day after they were unable to come to a final unanimous decision.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Gordon Rhea urged the jury to consider the fact that "more than half" of the charges brought against Maynard are based on prescriptions given to patients "who the government never called to the stand."
"Since they never appeared before us for questioning, we don't know what those patients would have to say about the charges, and we don't have anything that would contradict the testimony of Dr. Maynard," he said. "So when you begin deliberations, ask yourselves if the government was really able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Maynard was indicted in 2003 by a federal grand jury on 170 counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances or derivatives — primarily Schedule II drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan, among others.
Over the past few days, prosecuting attorney Kim Chisholm said that Maynard was "motivated by greed" when he prescribed the drugs to individuals for a $60 to $80 fee — without examining their medical records, conducting follow-up examinations or referring those patients to other medical professionals for further study. She also said that one of Maynard's prescriptions for OxyContin, a powerful and addictive narcotic, was responsible for the death of 26-year-old Aaron Houle in May of 2001.
While on the stand Monday, Maynard refuted Chisholm's statements, saying that he was not a "drug dealer" but rather "just a trusting physician trying to help his patients (See "Maynard Denies Being 'A Drug Dealer' As Trial Winds Down").
On Tuesday, Rhea used Maynard's testimony to support his closing argument, saying that Maynard was "simply doing what doctors do" by diagnosing his patients' conditions and "prescribing a medication to take care of the pain."
Rhea added that Maynard was duped by a series of patients — including a group of undercover federal agents — into prescribing medication for false ailments, ranging from back pain to an overextended elbow.
"These guys know how to act. And Dr. Maynard gave them the benefit of the doubt. He thought he could trust his patients," Rhea said.
Rhea also questioned the testimony of the prosecution's "key witness," a medical expert who, Rhea said, did not have the opportunity to interview Maynard or the patients before rendering his opinion before the court. "You don't second-guess the judgment of a doctor without all the evidence — you can't convict someone on that," he said to the jury.
In her rebuttal statement, Chisholm broke down other facts presented throughout the trial by Maynard and the defense — including testimony given Monday regarding Maynard's interaction with Houle.
While Maynard had testified that he was "simply refilling" Houle's prescription for OxyContin (allegedly prescribed by another doctor for a sports injury Houle had sustained), Chisholm said Tuesday that Maynard did not try to verify the information or examine Houle before prescribing the medication.
Chisholm argued that if Maynard had "looked into the situation," he would have seen that the name of the drug was spelled incorrectly on the prescription slip, and that an improper dosage was listed.
"A doctor should want to know what pharmacy in the states filled the prescription, what doctor wrote it," she said. "I mean, as a doctor, why wouldn't you want to verify the information?"
Chisholm also said that Maynard "violated the law" when he failed to conduct follow-up examinations on repeat patients before prescribing the pain medications, and document, in some instances, prescriptions written for Schedule II drugs.
Describing Maynard's office as a "grocery store for controlled substances," Chisholm added that patients who eventually became addicted to the drugs were not referred to other medical professionals for further study. Instead, Maynard continued to "freely give out the medications," sometimes writing two or three prescriptions for one patient in a day, she said.
"If you want to help someone who's an addict, you don't keep prescribing …," Chisholm said. "That's just smoke and mirrors presented by the defense. Dr. Maynard is not a pharmaceutical company, but he is taking a chance with human life."
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