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No Decision Yet From Diet-Drug Jury In Lawyer Fraud Trial

COVINGTON, Ky. -- A federal jury deliberated for a fourth day yesterday without reaching a verdict in the case of three Kentucky lawyers charged with defrauding clients of millions of dollars in a lawsuit over the diet drug fen-phen, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal on-line.

The jurors have been considering whether or not lawyers William Gallion, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Melbourne Mills Jr. conspired to commit fraud. If convicted of the conspiracy charge, the three face up to 20 years in prison, reports the C-J. The jurors are expected to resume Monday at 9 a.m. their efforts to reach a verdict.

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman sent the jurors home for the weekend with an admonition not to discuss the case with anyone and to avoid exposure to any newspaper or television coverage of the trial.

Bertelsman said he didn't want anything to disrupt the trial, now in its seventh week. "We all have a lot invested in this trial," he said.

Jurors have given no indication of where they stand on the case. But yesterday they sent their first question to the judge since they began deliberating Tuesday, reports the newspaper.

The jurors' question concerned whether it is legal for lawyers to take additional fees from a settlement once their contingency fees have been paid. Bertelsman met with defense lawyers and prosecutors to consider the question, which he said he didn't fully understand, the newspaper reports.

"I'm not sure what they are thinking," he said. Bertelsman responded in a note to jurors directing them to a portion of written instructions they received before beginning deliberations.

The jury heard testimony over allegations that the lawyers in 2001 enriched themselves at the expense of their clients from a $200 million settlement with the manufacturer of the drug.

The 431 clients got $74 million, about $65 million less than they should have under a contract with the lawyers, according to prosecutors. Fen-phen, linked to heart damage, was pulled from the market in 1997, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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