Garner seeks new hospital corruption trial

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Lee Garner, one of two defendants convicted in February in a high-profile federal bribery and fraud case centering on Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville, is seeking a new trial.
One of the grounds mentioned by his attorney team was an allegation of juror perjury.
Garner is a Batesville businessman convicted of bribery, bribery conspiracy, health care fraud and health care fraud conspiracy. Prosecutors alleged that he paid $268,000 to former Panola County Chancery Clerk David Chandler, repeatedly described as the most influential man in the county, to increase the hospital’s hiring of nurses from Garner’s staffing company and conspired to cover up the action. Chandler’s plea agreement required him to testify in the trial.
Ray Shoemaker, a Tupelo businessman who was the Batesville hospital’s administrator at the time of the alleged crimes, was convicted of 10 of the 12 counts in the dual indictment. He was not involved in Thursday’s proceedings.
Garner’s attorneys contended that the government failed to prove wrong intent on the part of their client, that the jury didn’t read or follow Judge Neal Biggers’ instructions and that an FBI agent who investigated the case did not furnish sufficient notes of interrogations to defense attorneys.
Federal prosecutors argued that the FBI’s lack of reporting detail was of little importance.
“They don’t have a good argument, so they complain that an agent didn’t take good notes,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims.
Defense attorney Christi McCoy said one audience member during the trial – a potential juror who was not picked – said one actual juror confided that the juror had strong prejudices against Garner – something McCoy said the juror was required under oath to disclose.
Biggers reminded McCoy that charging a juror with perjury is a serious accusation.
“If you have evidence that a juror lied during voir dire … don’t do it lightly,” Biggers said. “You’d better think that all the way through.” Biggers gave McCoy five days to decide whether to file a formal complaint on the issue.
Biggers did not rule Thursday on Garner’s request for a new trial.
errol.castens@journalinc.com