The trial of a former East Texas nurse accused of being responsible for the deaths of three patients at a Tyler hospital has been postponed to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a virtual pretrial hearing Friday, 114th District Judge Christi Kennedy announced that William George Davis, 36, of Hallsville, will likely not stand trial until September 2021.
Davis is charged with capital murder of multiple persons. He is accused of intentionally and knowingly causing the deaths of John Lafferty, Ronald Clark and Christopher Greenaway by introducing air into their arterial systems, according to the Aug. 28, 2018, indictment.
Davis worked for Christus Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler for five years and was fired Feb. 15, 2018, about a week after hospital officials went to police with their concerns. Prior to that, he worked for Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview from 2011 to 2013.
Jury selection was originally set to begin this August. Kennedy said the jury selection will now begin July 29, 2021 and evidence will likely start Sept. 7 that year.
“A trial that going to take months of jury selection and trial is too big of an investment of time and money, although the money is not the thing,” Kennedy said. “It’s the jurors’ time, the lawyers’ time, the court’s time. It’s too big of an investment to just do all over again. It just injects a level of uncertainty in this trial.”
The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4, 2020.
Under the Texas Office of Court Administration, jury trials are suspended across the state through Aug. 1 this year.
Prior to Kennedy’s postponement, Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman said he would be concerned over a mistrial in the event of the trial having to stop if a juror were to be infected with COVID-19.
“I just see it being a lot of potential problems if we proceed in August or September (2020),” Putman said. “I think we’d all like to get it done sooner rather than later. Nobody wants a delay but at the same time we don’t want to do it twice either.”
With Davis’ case including the death penalty, the trial process would take longer than other trials due to the amount of evidence, Putnam said.
One of Davis’ defense attorneys, Philip Hayes, said he’s been having difficulty meeting with expert witnesses due to COVID-19.
Davis, a former nurse at the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, was arrested in April 2018 and charged with murder related to the August 2017 death of Greenaway, 47, who was recovering from a heart procedure at the hospital.
He is also facing a murder charge and five charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was arrested April 10, 2018, and remains in the Smith County Jail on bonds totaling $6.75 million, according to Smith County Jail records.
Davis is believed to be responsible for killing three people and causing serious injuries to five others.
Officials believe Davis intentionally injected air into arterial lines of patients who were recovering from heart surgery, causing them to have stroke-like symptoms. Hospital officials initially informed law enforcement of seven suspicious and/or unexplained incidents.
All the incidents included in the arrest warrant affidavit occurred at Christus Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler.
Davis’ nursing license was suspended during a meeting in Austin in March 2018, according to a Texas Board of Nursing order.