May 13, 2022 - News

Former nurse RaDonda Vaught faces sentencing

RaDonda Vaught crying in court
RaDonda Vaught. Photo: Nicole Hester/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Former nurse RaDonda Vaught is expected back in court Friday morning for a sentencing hearing on two charges related to the death of a patient.

  • Charlene Murphey, 75, died in 2017 after Vaught gave her the wrong drug at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Why it matters: Vaught's case became a closely-watched lightning rod for health care workers after a jury convicted her on counts of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult.

  • Her supporters, including nurses from across the country, worry the case will set a dangerous precedent of punishing medical mistakes with jail time.
  • Protests are already planned surrounding the sentencing hearing.

Driving the news: Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith is expected to set the sentence at the end of the hearing.

What to watch: State law allows for as many as eight years behind bars in this case. But a lesser sentence is likely, and she could receive probation instead of jail time.

  • Prosecutors have argued Vaught made repeated errors that were so egregious they warranted criminal punishment. Her defense team has said the mistake was unintentional and exacerbated by systemic problems at the hospital.

What they're saying: The district attorney's office will defer to the judge on sentencing, per spokesperson Steve Hayslip.

  • "We have made it very clear that this is an offense for which probation is an option the judge may consider," Hayslip tells Axios.
  • "After all, the family wanted this defendant to never be a nurse again. The guilty verdict did that."

Yes, but: Vaught is also facing a perjury charge in Sumner County related to an attempted purchase at a gun store in 2020, when prosecutors say she filed paperwork incorrectly claiming she was not under felony indictment.

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