A former East Texas nurse could get the death penalty after a Smith County jury on Tuesday found him guilty of capital murder for the deaths of four patients at a Tyler hospital.

After about an hour of deliberation, the jury reached its verdict in the trial of William George Davis, 37, of Hallsville, following about two weeks of witness testimony and evidence.

Davis, who wore a suit and tie throughout the trial, was found guilty 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. He was found guilty in the deaths of patients John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenaway and Joseph Kalina.

After about two hours of closing statements Tuesday, the jury of 12 Smith County residents left the 114th District Court just before noon to review the evidence and reach a verdict. They returned with a verdict at about 1 p.m.

Judge Austin Reeve Jackson Tuesday morning read the charge against Davis and gave instructions to the jury. He told the jurors they had three options for a verdict: a finding of not guilty, guilty of capital murder or guilty of the lesser charge of murder.

Davis’ trial began Sept. 28 when he entered a not guilty plea. The prosecution presented evidence for 11 days while the defense put on four witnesses across two days.

Davis told Jackson on Monday he did not want to take the stand.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case. The punishment phase, where jurors will hear further witness testimony, is set to begin Wednesday morning.

Those convicted of capital murder face either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

During closing arguments, the prosecution said Davis likes to kill people.

“He enjoyed going into the room and injecting people with air,” Smith County First Assistant District Attorney Chris Gatewood said.

Gatewood asked the jury to make reasonable deductions and use their common sense as they deliberate. He told the jury Davis used a syringe to inject air into the patients’ arterial system, causing air to get into their brains.

“We have proven he committed capital murder. The evidence has established Will Davis is guilty of capital murder,” Gatewood said.

Gatewood referenced Kalina’s neurological event on Jan. 25, 2018, while he was recovering from heart surgery in the cardiovascular ICU. Scans later showed air in his brain, and Kalina died two years later because of brain damage.

Security footage in court showed Davis was the last person to enter Kalina’s room before there were complications.

Davis said he went into the room to silence an IV pump, but records later showed an alarm wasn’t going off, according to previous testimony.

Gatewood told the jury Davis didn’t tell the other nurses what happened and he stood by as others responded to help Kalina.

In a meeting with Deb Chelette, vice president of operations and cardiac services for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, Davis said he responded immediately to help Kalina but the video showed his response was much slower.

“When he’s in the room with Mr. Kalina, he’s shoving air into the arterial line,” Gatewood said.

Gatewood said the pattern was similar to that for patients Greenaway, Lafferty and Clark. He told the jury Davis lied about why he was in the rooms of the patients who later died and that Davis was the only nurse on the floor during each of the patients’ complications.

Gatewood called the defense’s suggestions the stroke-like events could have been caused by issues other than air injected into the arterial system “red herrings” and attempts to misdirect the jury.

Defense attorney Phillip Hayes said the patients who later died showed a classic pattern of watershed strokes, and their prior health issues could have led to their complications and deaths.

None of the accusations against Davis add up, according to Hayes who suggested Davis might be a scapegoat for the hospital.

Hayes told the jury the defense’s expert witness, John Schnell, an emergency physician at the UT Health ER and former Christus Mother Frances chief of emergency medicine, said it was anatomically impossible for air to go against the blood flow.

Hayes claimed Davis tried to give life-saving measures to at least two of the patients. He said one of the state’s witnesses, Teresa Meeks, clinical director at cardiovascular ICU, misled and tried to hide things about the timeline of Kalina’s neurological event.

Hayes told the jury Davis was charged in the deaths because he was the only person who was on the floor during each of the incidents. He also suggested some of the state’s witnesses had confirmation bias, which is when people interpret things based on their existing beliefs, to fit the prosecution’s narrative.

Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman reiterated his statement from the beginning of the trial that a hospital is a perfect place to commit a murder.

“We’re never more vulnerable (than at the hospital),” Putman said.

Regarding the defense’s claim of Davis being a scapegoat, Putman said no one had anything against Davis as hospital leaders like Chelette were recommending him for jobs and considered him a good nurse.

Putman said it’s false that air can’t go against the blood flow, and noted experts said the patients’ brain had a unique pattern similar to a watershed stroke but their damages were much more distant.

Incidents of air in the brain and damage stopped when Davis no longer worked at Christus TMF in February 2018, Putman said before asking the jury to find Davis guilty of capital murder.

“He killed these four patients; he did it on purpose,” Putman said.

Davis has been in the Smith County Jail since his April 2018 arrest on bonds totaling $8.75 million. He was indicted on charges of capital murder, murder and five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He was fired from Christus Mother Frances Hospital — Tyler on Feb. 15, 2018, for falsifying care events and unethical practice related to failure to disclose interventions provided that may have impacted the outcome of a patient.

His nursing license was suspended in March 2018 through a Texas Board of Nursing order.

Davis worked at Christus Mother Frances Hospital for five years. Before coming to Mother Frances in Tyler, Davis worked for Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview from 2011 to 2013.

Arrest affidavits show the offenses all occurred at Christus Mother Frances.

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