RaDonda Vaught found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in death of patient

Vaught Verdict
Posted at 12:20 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 18:10:58-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Davidson County jury has found RaDonda Vaught, a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse, guilty in the 2017 death of Charlene Murphey.

Vaught was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult. She was facing a charge of reckless homicide, but the jury found her guilty of a lesser charge.

The judge handed the 12-member jury the charges on Thursday night, with deliberations beginning Friday morning. The jury consisted of six men and six women — eight of which are white and four who are Black.

Watch the verdict below:

RaDonda Vaught verdict

Vaught was on trial for accidentally giving the wrong medication to Murphey, leading to her death. Murphey was supposed to receive Versed to ease her anxiety, but instead, she was given the paralytic drug vecuronium, which caused her to be unable to breathe. Murphey entered the hospital because of a brain bleed. In the following months after Murphey's death, Vaught was fired from the hospital.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing unanimously voted to revoke her nursing license last summer.

While waiting to hear the verdict, Vaught told reporters she worries this trial will have a "tragic" impact on the health care industry. Listen to her full interview here.

She will remain on bond until she returns to court on May 13 for sentencing.

On the final day of testimony, the court heard from two nurses, one from the prosecution and one from the defense.

The prosecution argued Vaught admitted to major mistakes that nurses should know to avoid. Donna Jones, a legal nursing consultant with 47 years of experience as a nurse, went through several scenarios in which Vaught may have noticed the mistake before it was too late.

"She admitted she had given Versed prior, but never vecuronium. She admitted she was distracted. She admitted she shouldn't have been distracted with something other than the medication. She admitted she shouldn't have overrode the medication," Jones said.

However, the defense called Leanna Craft, a nurse educator at VUMC who knew Vaught. She was asked about the culture at the hospital.

"We have a lot of newer nurses there that do a lot of, you know, they follow physicians' orders and what other people tell them. They don't have a lot of experience, as far as being able to make a lot of independent decisions. They do make independent decisions, but they tend to look at orders and what other people tend to do in the unit," Craft said.

The prosecution called a total of 16 witnesses. Craft served as the defense's only witness as Vaught waived her right to testify.

Defense attorney Peter Strianse summed his closing argument with the statement "error is error, we all make mistakes" — a similar sentiment delivered during his opening statement.

The state walked the jury through the timeline of the day Murphey was given the wrong medication. Prosecutors told the jury they think they have proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.