Defense attorneys for the former East Texas nurse accused of killing four patients brought back two of the prosecution’s witnesses Wednesday morning as they began presenting their evidence.
William George Davis, 37, of Hallsville, is accused of injecting air into patients’ arterial systems while he was a nurse at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital in Tyler, causing their deaths, according to 2018 and 2021 indictments.
Davis is accused of killing John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenaway and Joseph Kalina. His trial began Sept. 28.
Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman announced to the jury that the state rests its case.
Davis’ attorney Phillips Hayes brought Dr. Jennifer Shupe, a neurologist at Christus Trinity Mother Frances NorthPark Medical Plaza — Tyler, and Teresa Meeks, clinical director for the Christus TMF cardiovascular ICU, back to the stand.
Due to other witnesses’ availability, testimony won’t resume until Monday morning. The jury will likely begin deliberations next week, 114th District Judge Austin Reeve Jackson said.
Jackson also informed Davis he has a right to choose whether or not he wants to testify in front of the jury.
Shupe testified a stroke can be caused by a significant period of hypotension (low blood pressure). She said that period of time can be five minutes if the patient has extremely low blood pressure.
Shupe also testified that having significantly low blood pressure was not the case for Greenaway, who on Aug. 4, 2017, had a stroke-like event while having a routine recovery at the cardiovascular ICU.
Greenaway’s brain scan later showed air in his brain that caused significant damage and ultimately his death.
The prosecution then gave the example of Pamela Henderson, a patient who was neurologically intact and using her iPad after surgery in November 2017. She had a neurological event due to air inside the arterial system of her brain.
Davis is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with Henderson’s injuries.
Shupe testified the patient in that situation would have been in a profound hypotensive state within such a short period for that to be the cause of a neurological event. The issue would not have been related to anything that happened in surgery. She added strokes are not an uncommon medical issue.
Meeks testified air getting into the arterial line is difficult because of the equipment’s setup. She noted Dr. William Turner, a heart surgeon for some of the deceased patients, had high expectations for patients’ health care.
She told the defense that as she began to look into what happened to Kalina the initial documentation did not show air being pushed into the arterial line.
Kalina had a neurological event on Jan. 25, 2018, while recovering from surgery. Scans later showed air in the arterial system of his brain caused significant damage. He died two years later.
Security footage showed Davis, who was not the nurse assigned to the room, was the last person in Kalina’s room before he experienced complications.
Meeks noted the waveforms that track the arterial system for patients typically disappear after 72 hours. At the time, she reviewed heartbeat rhythms, blood pressures and mean arterial pressures for Kalina.
She said there was a large discussion about what happened to the patients. The nurse who was assigned to take care of Kalina was deeply distraught and angry the morning after Kalina’s complications, Meeks testified.
Meeks said no equipment was reported broken to her for the arterial line device.
She testified when an alarm goes off at the hospital, the primary nurse would typically respond unless that nurse was not available. Then, other nurses check on the patient.
Meeks said a nurse intentionally injecting air into the arterial line never crossed her mind. She also said the investigation into what happened to the patients who died destroyed her relationship with the staff.