Shoemaker-Garner update: Courtroom work delays closing statements

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

11:19 POST
OXFORD – Closing statements will begin after an early lunch break, the judge said about 11:15 in the medical fraud trial of Ray Shoemaker and Lee Garner.
Businessmen Shoemaker, 38, of Tupelo and Garner, 67, of Batesville are accused in a multi-count, multi-million-dollar federal medical fraud case.
Their trial began Feb. 21 and was expected to last three weeks.
The jury will begin deliberations after closing arguments with Judge Neal B. Biggers presiding.
Prosecutors contend the men were part of a bribery/kickback scheme associated with Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville, where Shoemaker was a top official. Garner’s nurse staffing company did business with Tri-Lakes.
Numerous family and friends of the defendants were in the audience this morning.
Co-defendant Dr. Robert Corkern of Batesville recently pleaded guilty to charges against him and testified early in the trial. Former Panola County administrator David Chandler, named an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, pleaded guilty to an embezzlement scheme late in 2011 and was the government’s lead and final witness.
Prosecutors are Clay Dabbs, Robert Mims and Charles Spiller. Defense attorneys likely to address the jury are Ronald Michael of Booneville for Garner and Steven Farese for Shoemaker.
(Below is a running account of court action today. Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type as quickly as I can. Come back to this post, which I’ll update as I can during breaks in the courtroom action.)
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9:30 – Some lawyers for each side exit judge-chambers end of courtroom. Reason isn’t public. Courtroom nearly full for closing statements.
10:05 – Lawyers return, speaking with colleagues/clients possibly about what’s transpired behind the scenes.
10:23 – Judge Biggers enters.
BIGGERS – Checks with Garner and Shoemaker that they didn’t testify, but that they have the right not to do so. Shoemaker, Garner say they understand.
Calls for jury. They enter.
Judge – explains to them the instructions on the law in this case, to guide them in making their verdict. Reminds them the case has two judges – I judge the law, your responsibility to judge what the facts are.
All these exhibits, documents introduced will be sent back to the jury room with you for your option to examine. Also, will send back copy of the indictment because it’s rather lengthy, 12 counts. You’ll have it to read and discuss. No way you can keep all these separate counts in your mind. Each count must be decided separately. Some counts mention one defendant or the other, other counts mention both defendants.
Any verdict … each of you must agree to it. In other words, it must be unanimous.
Reminds them no inference should be drawn by a defendant’s decision not to testify. Government must only prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Explains to them what a conspiracy is. Must determine first if a conspiracy existed as charged. Then, did defendant(s) willfully become a member of the conspiracy. Conspiracy is a kind of partnership. Each member is responsible for the acts of another.
You’ll make judgments about testimony, whether you believe what the person had to say and how important was that testimony. Testimony of an accomplice should be received but considered with great care.
Separate crime charged in each count. Determine guilt or innocence from the evidence. Not called upon to determine guilt or innocence of anybody else.
Goes through definitions in indictment – renumeration, kickback, bribe. Did conspiracy exist, and if so, were defendants part of it. (Shoemaker and Farese leave courtroom through a side door. 10:50)
Walks through charges against each defendant, says must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. (Farese back, gestures like Shoemaker sick at his stomach.)
10:53 – Judge going over each of the counts but says he doesn’t expect jurors to remember each little detail of what he’s said. (Shoemaker’s back in courtroom, 11:10-ish)
11:12 – Judge completes explanation of law on each count. Says if they have questions, to let him know. Final arguments of attorneys are next.
Spillers asks if attorneys can approach the bench. They file up there. Farese seems to be speaking most.
(Short break – until 11:31. Judge says he’ll break for lunch, then come back for all closing statements during the afternoon.)
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