TYLER, Texas (KETK) – After nearly three full weeks of Smith County prosecutors making their case that former CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances nurse William Davis murdered four patients, the defense team spent a little more than one day to present their side of the story.
Davis is facing the death penalty in a case that rocked East Texas when he was arrested more than three years ago. He is accused of intentionally blowing air in the arterial lines of patients at Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, which killed four people and injured two others.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses over roughly 12 days of testimony. However, the defense team only called a handful of witnesses that only testified for roughly five hours. Davis himself did not take the stand.
One witness called Monday morning was Dr. John Schnell, a former ER physician at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances who now works at UT Health. He worked at CHRISTUS for more than a decade and was their Chief of Staff over the nearly 1,000 physicians employed there.
Schnell testified that he had heard the allegations against Davis, but did not believe that the cause of the patients death was an intentional introduction of air into arterial lines.
Schnell shared an analogy to defend his belief.
“If you had a garden hose and the water was turned on and you had a straw in your mouth and went and tried to blow air into that garden house and get that air to travel the length of the hose to the end. The water coming out of it would just push those air bubbles out,” he said.
He admitted however that he was not physically present when the victims’ health deteriorated.
Dr. Vipul Kipoor, who reviewed the medical records, noticed something unique about the patients.
“The pattern of strokes is very similar in all these six patients. The patterns matched a watershed stroke or a watershed infart,” he said.
Lead defense attorney Philly Hayes also questioned Schnell about other potential causes that could’ve caused complications. One was Serotonin Syndrome, which occurs when the chemical seratonin reaches dangerous levels in a person’s body. This can cause high blood pressure which leads to seizures and strokes.
Schnell said that the unique aspect of the cases, where the victims had extremely high blood pressure readings before their deaths. He testified that usually for pateints coming out of surgery, they have the opposite problem.
Schnell testified that Serotonin Syndrome could have caused Chris Greenway’s death, who was the first victim identified by prosecutors when the trial began in early September.
Greenway’s health suddenly collapsed on the night after his heart surgery despite appearing normal and talking with his wife and nurses beforehand. Davis was left alone with Greenway the night he crashed after the nurse in charge left for 20 minutes to grab food.
In the case of John Kalina, Schnell testified that Kalina was a heavy drinker and approximated that he consumed roughly 12 beers per day along with some hard liquor. He explained that Kalina may have been going through alcohol withdrawl syndrome at the time of his surgery, which would have made him more prone to complications.
It is expected that closing arguments will begin Tuesday morning, but no official word has been announced yet by Judge Jackson.