Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
No room for error on nursing home jury
Two dismissed by judge for reportedly discussing case
Prosecutors expect to wrap up their case on Monday against the last defendant in the Hollywood Hills nursing home tragedy, a case that is proceeding with the bare minimum number of jurors required to reach a verdict.
Earlier this week, Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy III dismissed two jurors after a courtroom deputy reported he overheard them dismissing the case. One of the jurors denied discussing the case at all, while the other admitted talking only about how long they thought it would last.
In most criminal trials, more jurors are chosen than required. In the case against former Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills administrator Jorge Carballo, six jurors will ultimately decide whether he is guilty of nine counts of manslaughter in the deaths of nursing home residents who succumbed to sweltering conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Eight jurors were originally seated in the case, which gave the judge the ability to dismiss two jurors at most without having to declare a mistrial and start over. Now that two jurors have been dismissed, the trial cannot afford to lose another juror to illness or misconduct.
Prosecutor Chris Killoran told Murphy he expects to have his case wrapped up on Monday, the next day of testimony. What happens next depends on how long the defense team needs to present its case. Defense lawyer David Frankel said he expects to take several days to present experts to refute the assertions presented against his client.
Closing arguments could take place as early as March 1.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost power to its air conditioning system when the Category 2 storm ripped through Broward in September 2017. In the days that followed, temperatures soared inside the 150-bed, two-story facility, and a dozen elderly patients died as a result.
Among the witnesses against Carballo are three former co-defendants who had charges against them dropped last year. Supervising nurse Sergo Colin and duty nurses Althia Meggie and Tamika Miller each testified that they did not receive the proper training to handle the emergency situation that faced them.
Defense lawyers say Carballo did everything within his authority to help, arguing their client is being used as a scapegoat to make sure someone pays for the deaths of the patients.
Testimony resumes Monday.