For the jury’s verdict, click here. This story is no longer being updated.
MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — After three weeks of witness testimony, the prosecution and defense in the murder trial of Mobile doctor Jonathan Nakhla have presented their closing arguments. Now the jury is tasked with deliberating and returning a verdict.
Here’s a look at what that jury will weigh as they deliberate on Nakhla’s fate, plus a breakdown of all the charges the jury will consider in their deliberations:
Neurosurgeon Jonathan Nakhla is accused of causing a deadly crash that killed USA medical student Samantha Thomas in 2020. Thomas was a passenger in the car that left the road and crashed into a ditch.
Thomas and Nakhla were seen shortly before the crash on surveillance video having drinks by the pool of the apartment complex where they both lived, according to a traffic homicide investigator during the preliminary hearing. Nakhla’s defense argued that he was having coffee, not alcohol.
The preliminary hearing also revealed that the two left the apartment complex at 12:36 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2020, and the crash happened at 12:41 a.m.
Jury selection began on Monday, Feb. 27 and witness testimony started on March 1, 2023.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued that Nakhla was under the influence of alcohol while driving and was going 138 mph just before the crash occurred. Prosecutors had multiple first responders, witnesses and nurses at the hospital where Nakhla was taken after the crash testify about Nakhla’s behavior and their account from that morning. Many of the first responders testified that Nakhla was “emotionless” and that his response to Thomas’ death did not seem “genuine.”
On March 3, the defense called for a mistrial after Mobile Police turned over a new video to the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office. The video was surveillance footage from the Comfort Inn near where the wreck occurred on West I-65 Service Road. The footage was of a man who the defense claimed turned in front of Nakhla, ultimately causing the crash. The mistrial motion was denied by the judge and testimony resumed on March 9.
Surveillance video from the Comfort Inn showed Christopher Davis, the man accused of turning in front of Nakhla, turning into the hotel parking lot at 12:39 a.m. As he is turning in, attorneys said Nakhla’s car is seen speeding by less than a second later. Davis was called to the stand where he testified that he entered the parking lot and heard a loud boom, but he did not know what it was. He said he went inside the hotel to tell his friends before going back outside and seeing the car upside down in the ditch. Nakhla’s defense attorney argued that Davis was driving under the influence and that he is the one who caused the crash. Davis denied that he had been drinking.
A nurse who was at the hospital the morning of the wreck and was helping treat Nakhla after the crash testified that Nakhla did not give consent to have his blood drawn that morning. Only after an officer provided a search warrant did Bolton draw Nakhla’s blood. Nakhla’s defense asked the nurse if she knew that Nakhla had a head injury, to which she said she did not remember. The defense played body camera footage where the nurse was heard saying, “I don’t think he is coherent enough to consent to that.”
A second nurse took the stand and testified that Nakhla never lost consciousness while at the hospital. She also said his vitals were normal and he said his pain level was a 2 out of 10. Nakhla was stable and could walk, according to her testimony.
The chief toxicologist for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was called to the stand and testified that he conducted his own calculations of the hospital’s blood sample that was taken from Nakhla after the crash. Based on his calculations, he testified that he believed Nakhla’s blood alcohol level was between 0.11 and 0.125 at the time of the crash. The defense argued that the toxicologist did not factor in when Nakhla was allegedly drinking or whether or not he ate anything.
On March 17, the prosecution and defense rested their case.
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, they reiterated that Nakhla was intoxicated before, during and after the crash. Prosecutors played surveillance video from the Highland Apartments showing Nakhla inside and outside of the complex with drinks in his hand between 7:51 p.m. and 9:26 p.m.
Prosecutors recapped the testimony from multiple doctors who said they believe Nakhla was under the influence of alcohol. They also recapped Christopher Davis’ testimony in which he said he believed he had enough time to turn into the hotel parking lot because Nakhla’s car looked far away.
The 2D crash reconstruction video, the surveillance video from outside the Comfort Inn and the surveillance video from outside of Long & Long were all played as part of the prosecution’s closing argument. The prosecution says the Long & Long video shows Nakhla’s car speeding before the crash. Prosecutors also went over lesser charges including manslaughter, vehicular homicide, criminally negligent homicide DUI and criminally negligent homicide no DUI.
The an attorney for the defense started their closing argument by saying to the jury, “They went after the high-profiled guy and disregarded who they knew was the real cause of the accident. They had already made their minds up who they were going to go after.”
The defense’s main argument was that Davis was the one who caused the wreck because he turned in front of Nakhla. They argued that Davis was under the influence of alcohol and that he lied about multiple things, including where he lived, where he worked and that he had a driver’s license. The defense attorney played body cam footage that showed Nakhla trying to tear down a wire fence to help Thomas and it showed Nakhla asking how Thomas was.
Another argument the defense made was that Nakhla was not intoxicated, rather he had a concussion. The defense attorney argued that the black box data report, which said Nakhla’s car was going 138 mph moments before the crash, was not accurate because it did not record some of the airbag deployments. They claimed there was not enough alcohol, from what Nakhla was seen carrying in the surveillance video, for him to be intoxicated.
Prosecutor Ashley Rich presented the state’s rebuttal. Rich said reckless indifferent murder isn’t about Nakhla intentionally trying to kill Samantha. She said it is about the choices he made about drinking, operating a vehicle and speeding on top of that.
Rich also claimed Nakhla felt entitled. Body cam footage was played where Nakhla is heard saying he believed he should get “preferential treatment” while laying in a hospital bed because he worked there.
To convict Nakhla of murder, the jury would have to find that Nakhla recklessly caused Thomas’ death. The jury can also convict him of manslaughter if it decides Nakhla was unaware there was a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death.
Vehicular homicide is the next lesser charge. It states the operator of the vehicle caused the death of another person by knowingly violating traffic laws. Criminally negligent homicide by DUI is another lesser charge. It is defined as someone who caused the death of a person due to their negligence of being impaired without having any malicious intent. Criminally negligent homicide by speeding is the final lesser charge and only a misdemeanor. It means there was negligence due to speeding but nothing else.