Crime

Perry doctor Spurgeon Green faces 20 years to life

Suspended Perry physician Spurgeon Green Jr. was found guilty Thursday of wrongfully prescribing medications that led to the serious bodily injury of a patient who died while under his care.

Green, 70, faces 20 years to life in prison on the conviction. Sentencing is expected in about 60 days.“The only thing I can say now is I know how Jesus felt,” Green told a reporter after the jurors had left the courtroom. “Wasn’t Jesus innocent? He was — the same way we are.”

Green, physician’s assistant Dorothy Mack and pharmacist Jack Joseph were tried in federal court in Macon on charges of distributing drugs “not for legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice” from January 2000 to July 2003.

After deliberating for several days, jurors found Green and Joseph guilty of the general conspiracy of which the government accused the doctor and pharmacist, but they were unable to reach a verdict for or against Mack on the same conspiracy charge.

The jury acquitted Green of wrongfully distributing medications that led to the death of six patients and found him not guilty of wrongfully distributing medications that led to serious bodily injury to five other patients who died. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the seventh death charge.

Joseph, the pharmacist, was acquitted of wrongfully distributing medications that led to four of those patient deaths. Mack, the physician’s assistant, was found not guilty of wrongfully distributing medications that led to the death of three patients and acquitted of wrongfully distributing drugs that led to serious bodily injury of two patients.

However, Green and Mack were convicted on 32 counts of wrongfully distributing drugs, as Green post-dated prescriptions for drugs and Mack gave those prescriptions to patients while the doctor was out of town.

Although jurors found Joseph guilty of the general conspiracy, they were unable to reach a verdict on charges that Joseph wrongfully distributed three specific types of drugs: Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Alprazolam.

Jurors also were unable to reach verdicts on whether Green operated his medical practice and Joseph ran his Perry pharmacy for the purpose of wrongfully distributing drugs.

Green was convicted of 12 other counts of wrongfully prescribing medications and acquitted of 25 counts of wrongfully prescribing medications.

Lead prosecutor Jennifer Kolman praised Houston County sheriff’s investigators Sgt. Wayne Franklin and Sgt. E.M. Quinones Jr. for “the best put together case I have ever seen.” She also applauded the jurors for an “impressive” job of deliberating.

The seven-week trial produced numerous witnesses and a wealth of evidence for the jury to consider. U.S. District Court Judge C. Ashley Royal complimented jurors on their thorough review of the case.

Green and Joseph were taken into custody after the 29-page verdict was read in court and jurors had left the courtroom. Mack was given until Nov. 14 to report to authorities.

O. Hale Almand Jr., a Macon attorney representing Green, said, “It was a long and hard trial that while we disagree with the result and verdict of the jury, we have not weighed all the options available yet and plan to do so in the next few days.”

Mack broke down in tears in the arms of her husband, emitting loud sobs and cries after the jury was out of the room. Others in the courtroom cried with her — including her mother and an assistant for Almand who had tears streaming down her face.

“God help me! God — help me,” Mack cried out.

Franklin J. Hogue, her attorney, declined to comment. Drug counts for which Mack was convicted carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison each.

Charles E. Cox, a Macon attorney representing Joseph, although “delighted” with the acquittals, noted that the general conspiracy conviction was “devastating” because it carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Cox noted that his client was acquitted of the conduct for which the general conspiracy charge was brought, yet convicted of the general conspiracy. He said that will likely be a part of his expected appeal.

Juror Rachel Mixter, a homemaker with four children, said outside the courthouse that jurors were deadlocked on the general conspiracy charge against Mack because Green was her supervising physician and she was under the doctor’s authority.

In all but two of the death and serious bodily charges, jurors reached a consensus that while Green — and Mack for the ones in which she was implicated — as the health-care provider had a responsibility, so did the patients themselves. According to trial testimony, people often lied to Green and Mack in order to get prescriptions for narcotics.

In the serious bodily injury conviction against Green, Mixter said she believed but was not certain that the deciding issue was that the patient had been off a narcotic and then Green had prescribed a high dose of the narcotic for the patient, who died. According to testimony, if people are off a high dosage of a narcotic for a period of time and then resume that same dosage, the body may not be able to handle it and it can be deadly.

Mixter said jurors were in full agreement that Green post-dated prescriptions and that Mack handed them out while he was out of town and that the actions were a clear violation of the law. She noted that jurors felt there were other options available to the doctor and physician’s assistant — from having the patients come in a week ahead of Green being out of town to using a “do-not-fill-until” prescription until a future date, as allowed by law.

Mixter seemed surprised that Joseph was facing a potentially long prison sentence on the conspiracy conviction. She noted that she didn’t see how Joseph could be held responsible for distributing the prescription drugs because the pharmacist had to rely on what the doctor prescribed or the patient told him.

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