MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The jury hearing a former Mobile doctor Jonathan Nakhla’s reckless murder case went home Friday after the prosecution rested their case and, about an hour later, Nakhla’s defense rested theirs.
Nakhla is accused of being drunk and driving at high speeds before the wreck that took USA medical student Samantha Thomas’ life in 2020. The trial began late February.
After the jury left the courtroom, the defense motioned for a mistrial. Judge Ben Brooks denied the motion.
On Thursday, the defense called Dr. Harrison Pearl to testify. Pearl was the neurologist who evaluated Nakhla the morning after he was brought into the hospital. Pearl testified that Nakhla was “impulsive” and his thoughts “disorganized”, but, he testified, he believed it was because Nakhla suffered from a concussion and nystagmus and not because it had anything to do with alcohol.
On Friday, the prosecution had a chance to cross-examine Pearl. The prosecution pointed out that Pearl’s medical report says Nakhla had previous drug and alcohol use. Pearl claimed he did not write that part of the note. Instead, Pearl testified, that part was added automatically by the computer.
The prosecution also read text messages from Pearl to Nakhla’s neurosurgery partner, Dr. Amber Gorden, sent the night before she was supposed to testify. Pearl sent Gorden a text saying, “Amber, are you going to testify against Johnny? I’m praying that what I am told is not true.”
Pearl hesitated to testify that Nakhla was the one who told him.
The prosecution then called Samantha Thomas’ father, their final witness. He testified to Samantha’s phone records, as he paid her phone bill. Those records show that Nakhla called Samantha at 11:56 p.m. The deadly wreck happened at 12:39 a.m.
A second mistrial motion:
The defense had previously motioned for a mistrial after new video came to light from the Comfort Inn near the wreck site on West I-65 Service Road. Nakhla’s defense argued a man in that video was responsible for the wreck. The defense said the man had been drinking and had swerved in front of Nakhla’s Audi Spider before turning into the hotel parking lot on the night of the crash. Judge Ben Brooks denied that motion.
Nakhla’s defense has argued that the doctor was drinking coffee, not alcohol, the night of the deadly wreck and disputed a toxicologists’ calculations that Nakhla was drunk at the time.