LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Day 15 of a former dialysis nurse's capital murder trial kicked off Friday with a former supervisor denying she ever said "I will take someone with me."
Kimberly Clark Saenz, 38, of Pollok, is charged with capital murder and five counts of aggravated assault. She allegedly injected bleach into the bloodstream of kidney dialysis patients.
Friday morning's testimony began with the defense calling a former DaVita supervisor, Amy Clinton, back to the stand.
Saenz's attorney, Ryan Deaton, began by asking the witness about threats former DaVita nurse, Connie Baker claimed Clinton made at an impromptu meeting called when the clinic shut down.
"Did you make the statement that 'I will not go down for this. I will take someone with me'?" said Deaton.
"I never made that statement," said Clinton.
"What was your purpose in having an employee meeting, a teammate meeting?" said District Attorney Clyde Herrington.
"The purpose of the meeting is to get everyone together and go over all that has been going on," said Clinton. "Basically to reassure everyone that we were looking to find what was going on."
The defense called upon Michael Germain, a nephrologist, as the next witness.
Deaton asked the witness to talk about being the medical director of a dialysis center.
"Being a medical director is a very demanding job," said Germain. "The medical director is directly responsible for everything that goes on in the dialysis unit, the water treatment, the dialysis treatment itself, the employees."
Germain explained it's the medical director's job to stay up to date and inform employees about everything that is going on at the clinic. The medical director has to always look for ways to solve problems.
"Dialysis patients are the most sick of any patient with a chronic disease," said Germain.
Germain said dialysis patients have a higher mortality rate and says they are extraordinarily sick.
Deaton asked the witness about his observations on the medical history of the 10 patients listed on the indictment.
"I can say in a number of these patients, these are the problem patients," said Germain. "These were the sick unstable patients who already had problems."
Deaton asked the witness his assessment of certain patient charts. Looking at Debra Oates' medical history, Germain pointed out that Oates was already suffering from diabetes. He also says Thelma Metcalf was also a diabetic, and she was in her 70s. Germain concluded that she was probably already a sickly patient.
Deaton asked Germain to speak about April 1, 2008, the day Metcalf died.
"This was not an atypical death. This is kind of what you see in an elderly sick dialysis patient," said Germain.
Germain told prosecutors that in the deaths of Metcalf and Garlin Kelley, the dialysis treatment and amount of fluid being used during that treatment led to their cardiac arrests. Subsequently, on top of these patients being older and having other health issues, Germain says they died.
The prosecution pointed out to the witness that he was possibly misreading a patient record when it said "standing beside." Germain said that could mean the patient was standing bedside when the patient caregiver was tending to him or her. Germain said this would have resulted in the patient's blood pressure dropping. The prosecution said that most likely, "standing beside" referred to the caregiver standing next to the bed to help the patient, therefore finding the testimony incorrect.
Deaton asked the witness about Carolyn Risinger. Risinger's husband previously testified in this case and said DaVita employees did not tell him his wife may have been injected with bleach. Deaton asked Germain if that information would have been important to tell one of his patients.
"I never believe in keeping anything from a patient. I always tell them what I know," said Germain.
"Why would you want to do that?" said Deaton.
"Truth is always the best policy," said Germain.
The defense motioned that Germain be qualified as an expert witness on bleach and blood. Judge Barry Bryan granted that motion.
Deaton asked the witness about the water testing policies that he reviewed at the clinic. Deaton asked him if he found it odd that there was a positive reading for the presence of chlorine.
"Any chlorine close to a carbon tank is not expected. That is a concern," said Germain.
Deaton asked what dangers the chlorine content poses to a patient.
"We test regularly for a reason because certainly at some level, it's [chlorine] going to be harmful," said Germain.
In cross examination, the prosecution asked the witness about his pay for serving as a witness in this trial. The witness said he was going to be reimbursed for his time. He also noted that he became involved in the case 3 months ago. The prosecution asked the witness about concluding his beliefs on the patients' causes of death 2 weeks before the trial began. The witness disagreed, saying he never claimed to fully know what caused the deaths.
"In terms of determining cause of death, I don't know," said Germain.
The prosecution also pointed out that Dr. Nazeer, who was the medical director at DaVita in 2008 and has previously testified in this trial, would have better knowledge about the patients' health as compared to Germain. Germain said he did not talk to Nazeer about the patients prior to the trial, which, according to prosecutors, would have been the obvious thing to do.
The prosecution pointed out that Marie Bradley and Debra Oates was among a few patients who survived and are in decent condition today, contrary to Germain's testimony. Bradley appeared to be doing well, although Germain described her health conditions as poor.
"She beat the odds, and that's great. That's what we hope for. We are not foreseers of the future. We do not know what the future holds for them," said Germain.
Deaton then turned to ask the witness about his conclusions from what he's observed of the patients' deaths.
"What is your opinion in this case is to how these patients died?" said Deaton.
"They died in the course of their medical illnesses leading into their dialysis," said Germain. "I don't find anything out of the ordinary."
Germain said with the patients' medical histories, of having other ailments, and being dialysis patients, nothing appeared suspicious surrounding the deaths.
"This is how the [dialysis] patients die, die of sudden death," said Germain.
Germain stated that if it was his dialysis clinic, he would still have the same opinions of the patients dying under no suspicious circumstances.
The defense called Connie Baker, a former DaVita nurse, back to the stand Friday afternoon. She testified Thursday that she felt threatened by her former supervisor.
Deaton told Baker to repeat to jurors what she claims Clinton said in that meeting. Deaton also asked her feelings on what she was told.
"I felt threatened," said Baker. "Within the next day or the day after, no longer than that, I gave my notice, two-week notice".
Herrington passed around minutes from the meeting so jurors could see for themselves what was documented from that meeting.