Bond reduction granted for Lexington nurse accused of killing patient

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Baptist Health Hospital at 1720 Nicholasville Rd. in Lexington.

Baptist Health Hospital at 1720 Nicholasville Rd. in Lexington.

Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Travis has granted a $50,000 bond reduction for a former Lexington nurse accused of killing a man through an unauthorized injection.

Eyvette Hunter, 52, was indicted on one charge of murder and arrested on Aug. 23, according to court records. Police say Hunter’s maltreatment caused the death of James Morris, who died at Baptist Health Lexington on May 5.

On Thursday afternoon, she appeared in court after her attorney filed a motion to lower her bond, which was set at $100,000. Hunter’s attorney, Daniel Whitley, requested that the bond be reduced by half to $50,000 full cash, according to court testimony.

Whitley argued the current pre-trial bond exceeded the family’s financial abilities.

But prosecutors Aubrey McGuire and Traci Caneer strongly objected to reducing her bond in a motion they filed on Sept. 28. They argued, if anything, Hunter’s bond could be increased based on the facts of the case.

According to the motion, Hunter was the nurse assigned to Morris, whom she allegedly injected with Ativan, a schedule four narcotic and sedative, which he was not prescribed. Documents state doctors on the floor denied Hunter’s request to give him Ativan prior to her administering it.

Despite the denial, she “proceeded to administer something intravenously” to Morris, the Board of Nursing suspension order for Hunter states. After that, Morris became sedated.

Another hospital employee saw what happened and asked Hunter what she gave Morris. Hunter answered “something special,” court documents state. She then proceeded to flush the syringe, and went to get restraints. According to court documents, there were no doctors’ orders for the restraints.

Morris was later found with labored breathing and his oxygen saturation equipment turned off. “It was determined that (Hunter) had disarmed/lowered the oxygen monitoring system several times so as to not set off an alarm at the bedside,” the Board of Nursing’s order states.

Doctors informed detectives that prior to the incident, Morris had been doing well enough that he was going to be released to a rehab facility.

The Board of Nursing suspension order indicates that Morris had aspirated on food or medicine given to him. As a result of the incident, he developed pneumonia, according to the Board of Nursing. Morris went to hospice care on May 3 and died two days later.

“The defendant administered an unprescribed drug to Mr. Morris, and her continuous course of conduct prevented him from getting life saving measures,” prosecutors wrote in their request for the bond reduction to be denied.

“The defendant turned off alarms, altered alarm settings to prevent other nurses from seeing him struggle to breathe, applied restraints on him after administering the unprescribed drug so he could not get help himself, and presumably fed him 30 minutes after administering the unprescribed drug and at the same time that her notes indicate he was snoring.”

Prosecutors strongly objected to the bond reduction and said the proof of capital offenses in the case were evident, and the presumption great.

“The defendant gave Mr. Morris an unprescribed drug that turned out to be lethal with NO doctor order, strapped him down with restraints with NO doctor order and then took active measures to prevent Mr. Morris from getting help to save his life,” prosecutors wrote in court records. “Mr. Morris survived two brutal wars, was self-sufficient living at home, and was doing so well in the hospital that doctors were looking at physical rehab to get him back home… instead Defendant ended his life.

“The nature of the offense was intentional, egregious and deplorable.”

In his motion for the bond reduction, Whitley argued that Morris was found to have several serious medical issues listed when he arrived at Baptist Health’s Emergency Room which could have been factors in his death. Whitley also wrote that the cause of Morris’ death was listed as “natural” on the death certificate, according to court records.

“It is essential to note that the commonwealth’s discovery is void of any expert materials or reports indicating the victim died from medical maltreatment. The only conclusive evidence regarding the cause of death is the death certificate stating the victim died from Aspiration Pneumonia which strongly discredits any sudden allegation of homicide,” Whitley wrote.

During court testimony, Whitley said it was never before seen that someone was locked up in jail and charged with murder, for a death that was ruled as a natural death by a medical examiner.

“Pneumonia was documented as the cause of death. According to the death certificate, the alleged victim also suffered other significant conditions contributing to his death, including Upper GI Bleed, Prostate Cancer, Hypertension, Supraventricular Tachycardia, and Atrial Fibrillation,” he said in the motion.

“It is essential to note this victim had several significant medical conditions documented in his medical health records and the death certificate.”

Whitley also said that before the commonwealth indicted Hunter for murder, they neglected to consult with a medical examiner, nor did they seek to do any toxicology to determine the levels of Ativan, or any other substance, in his system at the time of death.

The commonwealth has yet to tender any discovery from any witness stating that the alleged victim died due to the use of Ativan, Whitley said in court documents.

A trial date was set for June 12, 2023 and is scheduled to last four days.

Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.

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