Dr. Merideth Norris, of Kennebunk, walks into federal court in Portland with Timothy Zerillo, one of her attorneys, for a hearing in February. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A Kennebunk doctor has been convicted on 15 counts of illegally distributing controlled substances. She was acquitted on a 16th count.

The 12 jurors reached their verdict against Dr. Merideth Norris in U.S. District Court in Portland on Friday after about nine hours of deliberation and two weeks of testimony from investigators, pharmacists, doctors and patients.

While federal prosecutors stuck mostly to data and patient records, which showed Norris had one of the highest prescribing records in the state, Norris’ attorneys relied heavily on emotional, complex testimony from several patients who said Norris’ prescribing helped them.

Norris is the owner of Graceful Recovery in Kennebunk and has served as medical director at a handful of methadone clinics in the state.

The courtroom was silent as the lengthy verdict was read, which took more than three minutes.

The doctor faces up to 20 years in prison per count and more than $1 million in fines. She will wait for sentencing on bail. Both sides declined to discuss the verdict after it was read.


Each of the 16 counts represented a prescription Norris wrote for one of five patients in 2021 and 2022. Norris treated hundreds of patients in southern Maine for both chronic pain and substance use disorder.

The jury was tasked with deciding whether Norris knowingly wrote the prescriptions without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the scope of normal practice for doctors.

The five patients all had histories of substance use disorder, according to prosecutors, and came to Norris with various reports of pain, for which she prescribed different forms of narcotics, including opioids – fentanyl patches, methadone and oxycodone.

“They were suffering. And they needed actual help,” prosecutor Danielle Sakowski told the jury in closing arguments Thursday. “And if there was anyone in Kennebunk, Maine, who could have helped them, it was Dr. Norris. This is her field. She knew what she was seeing and how to treat it. … But Dr. Norris did not keep these patients safe.”

Prosecutors argued that Norris “buried her head in the sand,” ignoring when patients failed drug tests and when pharmacists refused to fill her prescriptions. They said Norris also had received warnings from insurance providers for prescribing dangerous combinations of opioids, sedatives and stimulants.

Norris’ defense attorneys countered the government’s narrative by pointing to examples where she helped patients taper their medication, or where she connected them with other forms of treatment like physical therapy and counseling.


Her lawyers said the government’s case ignored the complexities of her large patient base. They said Norris cared for people at tough points in their lives, patients whom other doctors might have turned away after relapsing or missing appointments.

One of her attorneys, Timothy Zerillo, told the jury that Norris had written these prescriptions with good intentions of healing, which he said was not a crime.

“Her motive is to do good for humanity,” Zerillo said. “Her motive is to do good for her patients.”

Two patients from the indictment testified in Norris’ defense along with a handful of others who had been prescribed similar medications. They described a doctor who took the time to listen and accommodate their various needs.

Norris had been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration since the summer of 2022 after a pharmacist at the Walmart in Biddeford refused to fill Norris’ prescriptions, triggering a company-wide block.

The Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure began investigating Norris sat the same time. The board dismissed its investigation that October and thanked Norris for her work.

Norris’ attorneys repeatedly pointed to the state board’s decision to support their client’s innocence. In an effort to throw out much of the government’s evidence before trial, the defense argued that federal investigators recklessly ignored the state board’s decision.

They also questioned the credentials of prosecution witness Dr. Timothy E. King, who reviewed Norris’ patient files and testified that he saw no evidence that her prescribing improved her patients’ quality of life. He said she was “opioid centered.”

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