Pubdate: Tue, 05 Mar 2002
Source: Pensacola News Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Pensacola News Journal
Author: Monica Scandlen


Dr. James Graves, Convicted Of Manslaughter For Illegally Prescribing 
Painkillers, Is Asking For A New Trial.

In a seven-page motion, defense attorney Ed Ellis said Circuit Judge 
Kenneth Bell should grant the trial because last month's verdict came from 
circumstantial evidence and the jury "evidently did not understand the 
evidence" or jury instructions.

"The verdict of the jury was based upon bias, passion, misinformation, 
misdirection and prejudices," Ellis wrote.

Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar said the motion was expected as a 
standard response to a conviction.

No date has been set for a hearing on the motion. Graves, 55, is scheduled 
to be sentenced March 22 in Milton.

The Pace doctor was the first in the nation to be convicted on charges that 
his prescriptions, including OxyContin, led to some patients' overdose 
deaths. Several other doctors, including one in Florida, face trials on 
similar charges.

After 4 hours of deliberations, the jury agreed with the prosecution that 
Graves overprescribed virtually the same mixture of medications - dubbed 
the "Graves' cocktail" - to patients who didn't need them.

The defense argued many of the patients were addicts who lied to get their 
fix. The doctor testified for three days and insisted he did nothing wrong.

Among the points Ellis raised in the motion:

Graves did not get a fair trial because the manslaughter charges should 
have been tried separately from the racketeering and unlawful delivery charges.

Graves was not guilty of manslaughter by culpable negligence - meaning he 
should have known the prescriptions would lead to death or injuries - 
because some of the prescriptions were for legitimate medical purposes.

Bell should have allowed the defense to ask law enforcement and other state 
officials why they did not suspend the doctor's medical license early in 
the investigation.

"As a result of an emergency suspension ... not being pursued ... the four 
manslaughter charges ... occurred," Ellis said.

A woman who later became the jury forewoman should have been dismissed 
earlier in the trial. After Graves barged into another doctor's office 
looking for records, the juror reported someone called her and asked her 
about the developments. The juror told Bell she immediately hung up the 
telephone and did not discuss the case.

Graves remains in the Santa Rosa County Jail.

Reached after almost six weeks of testimony, the verdict is part of one of 
the longest and most expensive trials in Santa Rosa County. The county does 
not have a final cost estimate, but before the trial estimates reached 

Graves case Dr. James Graves, 55, was convicted Feb. 19 of four counts of 
manslaughter, five counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance 
and one count of racketeering.

He faces up to 165 years in prison when he is sentenced by Circuit Judge 
Kenneth Bell on March 22. The trial was held at the Santa Rosa County 
Courthouse in Milton.
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