DA gives opening statement in Lufkin nurse's capital murder tria - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

DA gives opening statement in Lufkin nurse's capital murder trial

Mugshot courtesy Angelina Co Jail Mugshot courtesy Angelina Co Jail
Kim Saenz during jury selection Kim Saenz during jury selection

By Alexis Spears - bio | email

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) -The trial for a former Lufkin DaVita Dialysis nurse began Monday morning in a packed Angelina County courtroom.

Kimberly Clark Saenz, 38, of Pollok, is charged with capital murder and five counts of aggravated assault. The Pollok woman is accused of injecting patients into the bloodstream of kidney dialysis patients

The state is pursuing the death penalty against Saenz.

Saenz was arrested in 2008, following a long investigation into five deaths at the DaVita Dialysis Clinic in Lufkin.

Five other patients were also injured.

Investigators believe Saenz injected bleach into at least 10 patients' bloodstream while they were receiving dialysis.

District Judge Barry Bryan began by readdressing rulings made in pre-trial hearings.

Discussion between the defense, the state, and Bryan resulted when Saenz's attorney mentioned he did not receive several reports he requested from documented investigations prior to today.

Without the report, Deaton admitted he wasn't as prepared to begin.

"Part of me says I want to go forward in this case, I want to get started. Part of me wants to know what's on those documents," said Saenz's attorney, Ryan Deaton.

"There's issues regarding expert investigations," said District Attorney Clyde Herrington.

With further discussion regarding what information is relevant and allowed to be presented in the case, Deaton said he wanted to present the fact that the clinic was improperly testing their water.

"Just because they were cited, doesn't mean it was accurate," said Herrington.

Herrington made a motion that the court stay away from presenting this information. Deaton said if the information was not allowed to be addressed, he was then not ready to proceed.

"I want to be able to say in my opening statement if they were improperly testing, which they were, that they were improperly testing," said Deaton.

Herrington further defended that the report may not even be credible.

"Until we determine the relevancy of the report, there's a lot of information on it that's not relevant," said Herrington.

Further discussion over the Texas Department of Health's report on the clinic continued for the first half of the morning. Deaton stated that there was a rise in deaths at the clinic between 2007 and 2008. However, the report did not state how the deaths occurred. Judge Bryan listened to the defense and prosecution state their issues with the information on the report and looked for 'a fair compromise.'

"Talking about the fact that there was an increase in deaths in 2007 and 2008, does anyone have an objection to that?" asked Judge Bryan.

With no objection, the attorneys further discussed what other information would be allowed in the case.

The state said they seek to have family member's testify on information relevant to the case, addressing the victim's conditions prior to receiving treatment.

"It will just be factual information prior to the dates we're discussing?" said Judge Bryan.

The defense argued that the testimony would have to be strictly regarding the prior condition. Defense attorney, Steve Taylor argued that the family members would have to give statements before testifying. Deaton agreed, saying the witnesses could change their testimony after hearing others on the stand.

Attorneys and the defense then had all possible witnesses in the courtroom stand and be identified. Judge Bryan then swore them in under oath. He required the witnesses not to speak to other witnesses or even be in the courtroom before testifying. Witnesses were allowed to hear opening statements. Judge Bryan said he would announce when witnesses are instructed to leave the courtroom.

With no further discussions, the trial was ready to proceed.

"I assume we're at a point to bring the jury in," said Judge Bryan.

The jury of 12 with three alternates was then escorted into the courtroom.

The five males and 10 females were sworn in, and Judge Bryan explained to them and the courtroom rules of interaction during the trial.

Herrington began to read over five instances of murder that they believe Saenz is guilty. Saenz stated she was not guilty of all counts.

Herrington addressed the jury. He began to explain the profession of nursing is among the most respected. He gave background information about the patients who died in 2008 after what appeared they had been given an injection of bleach. The dialysis clinic had two deaths in one day, which Herrington says is not impossible at such a clinic, but very rare. That was their first clue in to such sudden deaths. Herrington explained to the jurors how dialysis works and how the process affects your body.

On one account: April 16, one patient was taken to the hospital, but recoverd.

On April 21, another patient was taken to the hospital where they later died.

On April 28, four other patients were taken to the hospital and Saenz was assigned a medication nurse, but she was reassigned, to which Saenz was upset. One patient told a personal caregiver that she saw a Saenz put bleach in the tube.

Supervisor Amy Clinton heard and asked Saenz if she gave any medications and Saenz replied no. Clinton said Saenz seemed frazzled and sent her home. Herrington said bleach was used on a daily basis at the facility, but for purposes nonrelated to patients and their bloodstream.

The Centers for Disease Control got involved and contacted a doctor after samples were tested to see whether bleach was injected into these patients' blood and found that there had been bleach injected into their bloodstream.

As Herrington described the time of death of each patient, members of the courtroom began to cry, console others or shake their heads.

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