MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The defense for the Mobile neurosurgeon found guilty of murder earlier this year has filed a motion requesting a new trial, according to court documents.
Jonathan Nakhla, a former neurosurgeon at a local hospital, was found guilty of murder after a 2020 crash left University of South Alabama medical student Samantha Thomas dead. On Friday, Nakhla’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial on the basis that a juror had not lived in Mobile County 12 months before the trial or during the trial. According to court documents, the juror was possibly living in Baldwin County over the past year.
Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwood said, “Having listened to all of the facts throughout the three-week trial, the jury unanimously convicted Jonathan Nakhla for the murder of Samantha Thomas. A motion for a new trial isn’t uncommon but we are confident the conviction will be upheld.”
The defense claims deputies with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office attempted to serve the juror three times at a Mobile address in 2023, however, she was never there when deputies attempted to serve her. A deputy then filed a return of service saying she had moved. A return of service was filed again after attempting to serve the juror on a separate case. At that time, the juror’s father allegedly said she had moved.
More evidence the defense provided in the motion was the State of Alabama had filed a tax lien against the juror in 2020 and the address was listed as a residence in Daphne. In April 2021, the state sent her a notification saying she was released from the lien and the same address was listed.
Christiana Hoff, the stepmother of Samantha Thomas, responded to the motion:
“The facts are exactly that! The jury unanimously convicted Jonathan Nakhla for the murder of our daughter, Samantha Thomas. After sitting through a total of four weeks we do believe after investigation of the accusation in this motion by Mr. Knizley, we believe Mr. Blackwood’s team and Ashley Rich will prove once again these are false claims. This issue is another frivolous motion coming from the defense. Nothing but continuously running up attorney’s payroll. Including the entitlement of Johnathan Nakhla. We understand it is not uncommon as they tried several times during the trial to throw frivolous motions for mistrials at Judge Brooks. Our family in the last 2 1/2 years has gone through several frivolous motion requests from the defense side. He is guilty. He has been found guilty. Samantha will not be coming back and died at his hand while he drove an excess of 138 miles an hour after drinking. Again, the facts are the facts. Judge Brooks did a fine job of balancing this trial.”
On August 1, 2020, just after 12 a.m., the car Jonathan Nakhla and Samantha Thomas were in crashed, partially decapitating Thomas. Law enforcement officials claimed that Nakhla was speeding and intoxicated during the crash.
Nakhla was arrested and charged with manslaughter on Aug. 10, 2020. In September of 2021, that charge was upgraded to murder. The trial began on Feb. 27, 2023, and lasted until both the defense and prosecution rested their case on March 17.
The jury deliberated for one day before delivering a guilty verdict. On April 20, 2023, Nakhla was sentenced to 25 years in prison for Thomas’ death.