Capital murder trial of former CHRISTUS nurse accused of killing patients begins Tuesday

William Davis Murder Trial

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – William Davis, the former CHRISTUS nurse charged with murdering several patients in his care, will have his capital murder trial begin Tuesday at the Smith County courthouse.

Davis, 37, is accused of intentionally blowing air in the arterial lines of patients at the CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital. Staff members for 114th District Court Judge Austin Jackson said the trial will last for roughly one month.

Four patients were killed and several others were severely injured. Davis was arrested back in 2018 after an investigation by Tyler Police and the hospital itself. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman is pursuing the death penalty if Davis is convicted.

The case has been delayed numerous times over the past three years for a wide variety of reasons that include lawyer changes, DNA testing and the coronavirus pandemic. The trial was set in motion back in late July when jury selection began.

Over the past six weeks, lawyers for both sides and Jackson’s staff have had to widdle down a 2,000-person jury pool down to just 14 for a jury of 12 members and two alternates.

One of the challenges that jury selection faced was the wide press coverage the case has received since Davis’ arrest three years ago. In just the first pool of potential jurors, dozens of people said that they had heard about the case from either friends or the media.

Jackson emphasized that they must put aside those feelings and only focus on the evidence presented in the trial.

Davis was originally indicted for the death of three patients but was charged for a fourth murder back in May. It is unclear from those court documents when the fourth victim died. 

An affidavit that KETK News obtained three years ago says that security footage showed Davis entering the patients’ rooms and leaving. Almost immediately after, they would suffer a “profound incident” despite being considered stable.

All victims were identified as patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery and were recovering in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU).

In April, Davis filed a motion to suppress interviews that he had with police officers. They claim that he had already asked for an attorney and that any interrogation of him should have been stopped.

Tyler police contacted Davis on Feb. 15, 2018, to set up an interview with him about a string of incidents at the hospital. The next day, Davis told detectives that he was being represented by Jason Cassel when they called him.

The motion stated that investigators “disregarded Mr. Davis’ invocation of counsel and continued his interrogation and took a statement. This statement should be suppressed.”

Putman and defense lawyer Melvin Thompson announced at a hearing this summer to Jackson that the two sides had come to an agreement and would not need to admit the interviews into evidence.

The case will also bring the spotlight to Putman, the young, first-term DA who is up for reelection in March. As of this writing, no one else has entered the race. Putman was elected at just 35 years old in 2018 over former assistant district attorney Alicia Barkley despite a scandal that broke months before the election.

It was discovered after a DPS Trooper was allegedly killed by an East Texas man that Putman had offered the suspect an unauthorized plea deal for assaulting a Smith County deputy in a separate incident.

Both sides garnered support from notable East Texas leaders with Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes and State Rep. Matt Schaeffer backing Putman while former Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass and former 114th District Judge Cynthia Kent going for Barkley.

Putman won the race by nearly 2,700 votes, which propelled him to a 56-44 point win.

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