Ind. jury gets murder case against nurse

Man is accused of killing 7 nursing home patients

October 15, 1999|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BRAZIL, Ind. -- The fate of Orville Lynn Majors, on trial on charges of murdering seven nursing home patients with lethal injections of potassium chloride, is in the hands of 12 jurors, who began deliberations yesterday.

After weighing testimony they heard during the six-week trial, jurors will have to decide whether the patients, many with histories of serious illness, died of natural causes at Vermillion County Hospital in 1994 and 1995, as the defense maintains, or whether they were murdered.

Majors, who pleaded innocent, did not testify at the trial.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers delivered five hours of closing arguments Wednesday at the Calumet County Courthouse in Brazil, about 60 miles east of Indianapolis.

The trial was moved from Vermillion County because of pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors Nina Alexander and Gregory Carter said the combination of witness testimony, medical testimony and physical evidence adds up to Majors' guilt in the deaths.

Relatives of many of the victims testified that Majors, 38, had injected something into their relatives' intravenous lines moments before the patients died. Others said Majors was the only person with the patients immediately before their hearts stopped beating.

The deaths of the patients, ages 56 to 89, were sudden, unexpected and not consistent with their illnesses, prosecutors said.

Empty vials of potassium chloride with multiple puncture holes were found in the defendant's home and car. In high doses, the drug, which is prescribed for irregular heartbeat, can cause the heart to stop.

Two former friends of Majors testified, one of them saying Majors told him he hated old people and that "they should all be gassed." The other testified that Majors admitted killing the patients in a conversation in 1996, before his arrest.

Defense lawyers Carolyn Rader and I. Marshall Pinkus paid particular attention to the alleged confession that prosecutors say Majors gave to his former friend, Donald Miller.

Rader characterized Miller's testimony as "a tale by an idiot" and questioned his credibility, reminding jurors that Miller did not go to police with his story in 1996 but waited until authorities approached him two years later, when Majors was in jail.

Defense witnesses testified that the patients died as a result of their long illnesses. One patient had broken her hip and had just returned from a risky surgical procedure when she died, the defense lawyers said.

Rader said death is a difficult thing to accept. It might have seemed to members of the patients' families that their loved ones were on the road to recovery, she said, but "sometimes families and loved ones have failed memories."

Pub Date: 10/15/99

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