Mobile reckless murder trial hits snag amid dispute over defense witness

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:53 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The reckless murder trial of a former neurosurgeon hit a delay Friday amid a dispute over a defense witness.

Dr. Harrison Pearl testified Thursday that he treated defendant Jonathan Pishoi Nakhla at Mobile Infirmary following a traffic accident in August 2020 and determined he had a concussion. That contradicts the diagnosis of a different doctor who testified earlier in the trial that Nakhla was exhibiting signs of intoxication, not concussion.

It is an important factor in whether Nakhla is responsible for the high-speed wreck on the Interstate 65 service road that resulted in his passenger’s death, or whether another driver caused the accident by turning in front of the defendant, causing him to swerve.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Ashley Rich asked Pearl why he was no longer employed by Mobile Infirmary. He testified that he left for a better job in Baldwin County because of a dispute with other doctors in Mobile Infirmary’s neurology unit about standard of care.

On Friday, Rich told Mobile County Circuit Judge Ben Brooks that she learned overnight a great deal more information about Pearl that she wants to use to discredit him. The defense objected, arguing that the information is irrelevant to the case and potentially damaging to Pearl’s reputation. Brooks held a lengthy closed-door discussion with the lawyers about that issue and a related matter involving a prosecution subpoena for records.

Friday afternoon, the attorneys will question Pearl outside the presence of jurors before testimony resumes in front of the jury.

Testimony on both sides is expected to conclude Friday, with closing arguments set for Monday. In additional to reckless murder – a Class A felony punishable by 10 years to life in prison – jurors will have several options to convict on less serious charges.