Judge: Trial of nurse accused of killing ETX hospitalized patients needs larger venue

William Davis Murder Trial

TYLER, Texas – The judge overseeing the trial of a former Christus Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler nurse accused of killing three hospitalized patients said Friday she wants the trial to be held in Harvey Convention Center.

Judge Christi Kennedy said during a pre-trail hearing Friday she is concerned there is not space in the Smith County Courthouse large enough to accommodate the hundreds of potential jurors who will be called in the capital murder trial.

William Davis trial set for next year. Judge sees need for moving trial to larger venue.

District courts in Smith County are operating under a plan, in response to the pandemic, of using Harvey Convention Center, instead of the Smith County Central Jury Room, to conduct jury selection, when possible.

Kennedy said that she will ask the Smith County Commissioners Court to approve moving jury selection to the much large convention center. Moving the trial from the Smith County Courthouse would require approval by commissioners.

Jury selection in the trial of William George Davis, 36, of Hallsville, is set to begin July 29 with testimony to begin Sept. 7.

Davis is accused of killing John Lafferty, Ronald Clark and Christopher Greenaway, patients suffering from heart problems in the hospital, by adding air into their arterial systems. The Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putnam has indicated the state will seek the death penalty.

Davis, who was arrested April 10, 2018, remains in the Smith County Jail on bonds totaling $6.75 million.

Kennedy said during the hearing conducted via Zoom that she wants to reserve use of Harvey Convention Center now to ensure that it will be available next year.

“The only reason I’m doing that now is because we’ve had a lot of trouble getting availability at Harvey Convention Center and I’m going to reserve that and hope that works out,” she said.

The city-owned convention center at 2000 W. Front St. is the venue of many community events throughout the year.

Kennedy said even if COVID-19 and social distancing concerns are over by next July, the convention center would be a better venue for conducting jury selection than the courthouse where potential jurors would be packed in “shoulder to shoulder.”

Attorneys for Davis and the district attorney’s office said they see no problems holding the trial on the date as scheduled.

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