Victim’s daughter in-law is first witness to testify as Vaught trial begins

Testimony began Tuesday in the trial for RaDonda Vaught, a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse charged with reckless homicide.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) -Former Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught listened intently, appearing emotional at times as prosecutors made their first pitch to a jury Tuesday, that Vaught should be found guilty of reckless homicide.

Vaught is accused of giving a fatal dose of an incorrect medication to patient Charlene Murphey, 75, in December 2017. Vaught was supposed to give Murphey a medication for anxiety, as Murphey had fears of doing a PET scan. But instead, Vaught gave her a paralysis agent.

Murphey’s daughter in-law, Chandra, was the first witness called Tuesday. She tearfully remembered the moments at the hospital she began to believe her mother’s life could be in danger.

“I heard code blue, PET scan,” Murphey said. “And my heart fell to my toes.”

Prosecutors will try to prove to a jury that Murphey ignored several warnings and red flags before administering the fatal dose. They called two nurses and a radiology technician who worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that day.

“RaDonda Vaught recklessly ignored everything that she learned in school. And everything that this pin represents,” Assistant District Attorney Debbie Housel said in her opening statements, holding up a pin given to graduating nursing students.

Vaught’s attorney, Peter Strianse, reminded the jury in his opening remarks that to make an error, is human. He insisted to the jury that a mistake is not a crime, and that flawed procedures at VUMC, in his belief, contributed to the accident.

“RaDonda Vaught has no agenda. She has a voice and the truth, and you will hear from her,” Strianse said, alluding to the possibility of Vaught taking the stand.

Several nurses, both current and former, were in the courtroom showing support for Vaught. They believe the former nurse shouldn’t be jailed for, what they call, an honest mistake.

Reckless homicide carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

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