A jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon whether a Kennebunk doctor wrote unnecessary, life-threatening prescriptions to clients with a history of substance use disorder.

Dr. Merideth Norris is facing 16 counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Each charge represents a prescription that she wrote for one of five patients in 2021 and 2022.

Dr. Merideth Norris of Kennebunk walks into federal court in Portland in February with her attorney Tim Zerillo. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The 12-member jury must decide whether Norris knowingly wrote those prescriptions without having a legitimate medical purpose, outside the scope of normal practice for doctors. Norris and her attorneys have adamantly defended her against the charges, arguing she has always acted in her patients’ best interest and that allegations otherwise are unfounded.

Jurors in U.S. District Court in Portland heard nearly two weeks of testimony from investigators, doctors, pharmacists and several of Norris’ patients. They’re expected to continue deliberating on Friday.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice said that Norris’ prescriptions put those patients at risk of overdose. The government relied heavily on prescribing data, patient records and testimony from a doctor in Michigan who reviewed the evidence.

“They were suffering,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sakowski said Thursday in closing arguments. “And they needed actual help. And if there was anyone in Kennebunk, Maine, who could have helped them, it was Dr. Norris. … But Dr. Norris did not keep these patients safe.”


Norris’ attorneys said the case was not so clear cut. They called on several of her patients in an effort to debunk prosecutors’ claims that she was acting dangerously. Some patients testified that Norris’ care, and the medications she prescribed, improved their lives and helped manage their pain.

“It’s been more than positive,” Michael Murphy, one of the five patients listed in the indictment, told the jury earlier this week. “She saved my life, on numerous occasions.”

Norris prescribed Murphy Oxycodone, Klonopin and Adderall in December 2021, which prosecutors called a “prescription speedball” because of its potential for abuse and overdose.

But Murphy said the prescriptions were short-term, he was regularly required to meet with her and subjected to drug tests. Some of the prescriptions were for chronic pain, he said, stemming from a back injury and dental pain that he had struggled with for years.

He said Norris also helped him get into therapy and prescribed him methadone to combat his substance use disorder. Murphy said he had struggled with opioid use since receiving large amounts of morphine and other pain medication while he was a teenager.

“This case is where the government’s data meets the humanity of the defendant’s care,” one of Norris’ attorneys, Timothy Zerillo, said in closing arguments.



Norris had been under investigation since about 2022 when a Walmart pharmacist in Biddeford refused to fill Norris’ prescriptions.

The Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure began investigating Norris shortly after learning about the block. The board dismissed its investigation that October and thanked Norris for her work. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had also been investigating her, and through a search warrant, they reviewed a larger swath of records that Sakowski said the board didn’t get to see.

Prosecutors then paid Dr. Timothy E. King to review Norris’ patient files. King, who regularly testifies for the Department of Justice in similar cases, told the jury this was “the most dangerous and egregious” prescribing he’s ever seen.

King said he saw no evidence that the opioids Norris prescribed were helping any of the patients in her indictment. He said her treatment appeared “opioid centered” and that the pain her patients described couldn’t be helped by the drugs they were taking. He implied some of their pain was more psychological than physical.

But Norris’ attorneys raised doubts about King’s qualifications. Zerillo told the jury that King has received millions of dollars for his testimony against doctors in other federal cases. He questioned King’s credentials as an academic who has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The several patients who testified in Norris’ defense complained of pain that was very real and affected them physically. They described a doctor who cared about them – she listened to their needs and went out of her way to accommodate them. She didn’t turn away patients who had histories of substance use, even when she believed they were actively using.

“Doctor King and the federal government (are) putting their nose into patients’ relationships with their doctors,” said Zerillo. “It’s not safe to do what you think you should do for your patient because they will come after you. And they came after her.”

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