A Mobile Infirmary neurosurgeon was convicted on Tuesday on reckless murder charges for killing a medical student in a drunken, high-speed crash. Jurors took a total of two hours since Monday afternoon to return the verdict against defendant Jonathan Pishoi Nakhla, 38, in Mobile, Alabama, according to WALA.
Authorities said he was drunk and going 138 miles per hour at 12:40 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2020, down an Interstate 65 service road. The victim, University of South Alabama School of Medicine student Samantha Thomas, 24, was riding with him. She died instantly during the crash, in which Nakhla’s 2018 Audi R8 Spyder convertible flipped several times, struck a guardrail, and landed upside down in a ditch.
Defense lawyer Dennis Knizley maintained that officers did not properly look into another driver, according to the outlet. He said that man cut off Nakhla while failing to use a signal. The defendant had to swerve, he reportedly said. Responding law enforcement were more interested in publicity, the defense argued.
“We’ve got a high-profile case here, boys,” an officer said in the reported body camera footage.
He suggested his client’s vehicle was not going as fast as prosecutors claimed.
He called the toxicology report on Nakhla’s BAC to be “dubious” and said that the body camera did not show his client to be impaired.
“There is no fame, there is no glory, when you investigate a case and there turns out not to be a crime,” he said.
Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Walsh maintained her office would have charged anyone for the same behavior as Nakhla.
“It is insulting to me and insulting to you as jurors for him to say that,” she said.
Prosecutors reportedly presented witnesses who said Nakhla drank in the hours leading up to the crash. The defendant also bragged about his fast driving and that he used a badge and ID card, which were given to him as a volunteer police surgeon, to get out of tickets.
“There was a running theme,” Walsh said. “The defendant believed he was above the law.”
Evidence including skid marks showed that the car was going more than 100 miles per hour, Mobile police Detective David McCullough said.
An accident reconstruction expert who used to work as a state trooper testified that the vehicle’s “black box” indicated it was going 138 miles per hour nine seconds before it finally stopped.
The speed limit on the service road was 45 miles per hour.
Surveillance footage reportedly showed Nakhla’s car to be a blur.
The defense maintained the crash still would have happened.
“Johnny Nakhla had no chance, and nor would anybody else driving the speed limit,” he said.
“He turned his car into a weapon,” Walsh said. “It is a miracle no one else was hurt.”
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