Jury now deciding fate of Dr. McElwee, two others

9:00 pm - Oct. 1
Judge Maurice Hicks cited the approaching storm as the reason to 'call it a night' for jury deliberations.  The judge instructed the jury to return at 9:30 am Friday morning.

4:45 pm Oct. 1
It is now up to a jury of 10 women and two men to decide if Dr. Tandy McElwee, his wife Ava and former employee Catherine Cockrell are innocent or guilty of prescription drug fraud.

The jury got the case just after 4 pm Thursday and they did order dinner to the courthouse.

In the late afternoon part of the trial, the last of three defense attorneys wrapped up closing arguments.

"Who do you trust?" was the question Attorney Richard Gorley asked jurors as he began closing arguments for his client Catherine Cockrell. Gorley said his client trusted Dr. McElwee long before she found herself on trial with McElwee and his wife Ava, all accused of taking part in prescription drug fraud.

Gorley said Cockrell did not have any criminal intent and suffers from a serious medical condition which required Hydrocodone (Lortab) and was simply caught up in a scheme she knew nothing about.

However during a rebuttle, Prosecuting Attorney Allison Bushnell questioned why is there no documentation for that illness.

Gorley also continued a day-long theme started by the two other defense attorneys blaming Wendy Criss as the real "ringleader" and criminal in Dr. McElwee's medical practice, who they argued plotted and carried out the lion's share of the illegal drug prescription fraud.

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys called Criss to testify. Criss has already made a plea deal with prosecutors but has yet to be sentenced. Because of that, the jury heard nothing of Criss' current legal status.

Also Thursday, laughter or snickering during the trial by Federal Prosecutor Allison Bushnell attracted attention for a second straight day.

Judge Maurice Hicks cautioned Bushnell about her conduct after Defense Attorney Allen Stroud had stopped in mid-sentence during his closing arguments to refer to Bushnell's laughter. Hicks also told Bushnell that passing notes to fellow council is not appropriate either.

On Wednesday, Bushnell was heard laughing at Dr. McElwee's responses twice during cross-examination. McElwee finally turned to Judge Hicks and said, "I don't mind doing this, but I just don't want to be laughted at." That prompted the judge to send jury out of the courtroom, afterwards threatening to hold McElwee in contempt, saying "The next time you pop off like that ...," which prompted an unsuccessful motion for a mistrial by the defense.

2:30 pm Oct. 1
Dr. Tandy McElwee's attorney began a spirited defense of his client in the doctor's prescription drug fraud trial.

Just prior to the defense's closing arguments, prosecutor Allison Bushnell described McElwee as being guilty of, among other things, reckless indifference.

Marty Stroud said McElwee is guilty of "making some critical errors in judgment" and of poor supervision of a staff that he trusted too much. Stroud described his client as a victim circumstance, forced to give up his medical license because others abused his trust.

Stroud then asked jury where's the motive, adding that if had there had been "criminal intent," prosecutors would have been all over it.

Ironically, he then conceded there is no legal burden by prosecutors to prove intent.

He also took direct aim at former employees who have taken plea deals, for motives he said ranged from payback to passing the buck.

As he ended his closing argument, he said "his sin was to self medicate and for that he will pay dearly."

Allen Stroud conducted his own closing arguments on behalf of McElwee's wife Ava. Stroud put up still photos of government documents supposedly showing Ava signature. He asked the jury to look at the striking differences in each signature.

He then called Ava the victim of identity theft and forgery, saying the prosecution had a flimsy case against her. He instructed jurors to remember that suspicion is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

While Dr. McElwee's attorney chided prosecutors by asking 'Where's the motive,' Allen Stroud went step further, arguing where's the evidence against Ava.

He concluded that prosecutors used scant, inconclusive and incomplete evidence in their case against Ava.

Finally, he said, "regardless of what prosecutors say, poor supervision or negligence or just missing something is not criminal conduct."

When court resumes from a brief afternoon recess, Catherine Cockrell's attorney will begin his closing arguments.

12:00 pm Oct. 1
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The end game is now underway in the prescription drug fraud trial of Dr. Tandy McElwee.

The day began with Judge Maurice Hicks giving the jury of 11 women and one man 30 minutes worth of instructions before the prosecution began closing arguments.

Federal Prosecutor Allison Bushnell delivered a blow-by-blow multimedia closing argument against McElwee, his wife Ava and former coworker Catherine Cockrell.

Bushnell played a video clip of McElwee speaking in a KSLA News 12 story from 2-years ago admitting to writing himself prescriptions.

Bushnell then dimmed the court lights again and showed the jury slides of office records and prescriptions-confirmed altered and falsified - for Hydrocodone.

After a 50-minute presentation, Judge Maurice Hicks called a 30-minute recess. McElwee's attorney, Marty Stroud, will get his chance for closing arguments starting then.

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