Earlier this week, former Sanctuary Hospice official Marilyn Lehman pleaded guilty to two out of 11 misdemeanor counts accusing her of practicing medicine without a license.
Lehman basically said she pleaded guilty out of an abundance of caution – a legal precedent looking out for her “own best interests.”
If she’d been found guilty on all 11 counts, she could have been sentenced up to 66 months in prison with a $5,500 fine.
Prosecutors, from the state attorney general’s office, said the Tupelo community was so divided over the allegations surrounding certain deaths at Sanctuary that they didn’t think they could get a guilty verdict.
Assistant AG Scott Johnson said the prosecution had wanted to charge her with depraved heart murder or, at the least, manslaughter by culpable negligence.
But, he said, their Lee County grand jury was so split that it wouldn’t go for anything that steep and agreed on the misdemeanors.
I understand Ms. Lehman’s reluctance to put herself in any more jeopardy. With the allegations cast widely, at the very least she’s de facto not practicing as a nurse anymore.
I wouldn’t put myself in her place, but you gotta figure that if the prosecution didn’t think it could get a guilty verdict, it might have been worth going to trial to clear your name.
It boils down to whether the state had a case or not, and whether she had a defense or not.
People died at Sanctuary Hospice. Their loved ones insisted they died prematurely because they were overdosed by Lehman, its clinical director.
Of course, they checked in to Sanctuary with the intention of dying there.
Johnson says that if they died one day sooner than they were going to, they were deprived of special time. No doubt.
It must have been a hard call for Lehman to plead guilty. Medical director Dr. Paul White did the same to related charges months ago. She was fined $300. He got probation.
If, as the prosecutor insists, the Tupelo community is equally divided about whether Lehman did anything wrong, the odds were good her jury would have been, too. Mistrial.
The state claims it had ammunition but didn’t use it. If it had no ammunition at trial, the judge could dismiss the case.
That looks like at least 66.6 percent odds for Lehman.
But, when it’s you, I’m sure that 33.3 percent possibility isn’t very appealing, regardless of the rational oddsmaking.
In the end, the state dropped eight of the charges, then bargained away another to cut it to two.
Lehman pleaded guilty, but with the stipulation that she was doing so only because it was in her “best interests,” not because she was guilty.
That’s not easy to get on a legal bumper sticker.
I don’t know if they put an asterisk by that kind of plea, like Barry Bonds’ home run record.
And nothing really was clearly determined to be true or not.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her news updates at nems360.com.
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