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Nurse Who Killed 4 Patients Sentenced to Death

William George Davis injected Texas patients with air after heart surgeries
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2021 5:21 PM CDT
Updated Oct 27, 2021 3:15 PM CDT
Texas Nurse Guilty of Killing 4 With Air Injections
William George Davis, left, waits for the jury to return to the courtroom with their verdict during his trial, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Tyler, Texas.   (Les Hassell/Longview News-Journal via AP)

(Newser) Update: A jury sentenced a former Texas nurse to death Wednesday for killing four patients by injecting air into their arteries after heart surgery at a Tyler hospital. The Smith County jury deliberated about two hours before condemning 37-year-old William George Davis to death, the AP reports. During the trial's sentencing phase, prosecutors played for the jury recordings of telephone calls Davis made from jail shortly after the Oct. 19 guilty verdict. In a call to his ex-wife, Davis, who worked in the hospital's cardiac intensive care unit, admitted that he would find ways to prolong patients' ICU stays so he could work more overtime and make more money. Our original story from Oct. 19 follows:

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A Texas nurse was convicted Tuesday of capital murder in the deaths of four patients who died after he injected them with air following heart surgeries. The Smith County jury deliberated for about an hour before finding William George Davis, of Hallsville, guilty of capital murder involving multiple victims. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty during the sentencing phase, which is scheduled to start Wednesday. Davis, 37, was accused of injecting air into the four patients' arteries after they underwent heart surgery at the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler in 2017 and 2018, the AP reports. During recovery from their surgeries, the four—John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenway and Joseph Kalina—suffered unexplained neurological problems and died.

During the trial, Dr. William Yarbrough, a Dallas-area pulmonologist and professor of internal medicine, explained to the jury how injecting air into the arterial system of the brain causes brain injury and death. Yarbrough said he was able to determine there was air in the arterial system of the victims’ brains by viewing images from brain scans—something he said he had never before observed in his decades in medicine. He ruled out blood pressure problems or any other causes of death besides the injection of air, and said it must have happened after the surgeries because the complications occurred while the patients were in recovery.

Defense attorney Phillip Hayes told the jury that the hospital had issues and that Davis was a scapegoat who was only charged because he was there when the deaths occurred. Prosecutor Chris Gatewood said during closing arguments that Davis “liked to kill people.” And prosecutor Jacob Putman said the hospital hadn't changed any of its procedures and hadn't had any similar incidents since Davis left. (Read more Texas stories.)

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