Mobile reckless murder defendant on body cam recording: ‘Some guy turned in front of me’

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 12:10 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Jurors in the reckless murder trial of a former neurosurgeon on Tuesday heard the defendant’s side of the story in his own words.

Jonathan Pishoi Nakhla, 38, did not take the witness stand. Instead, jurors watched him on a video recorded by the body camera worn by a Mobile police officer sent to monitor him at Mobile Infirmary hours after an accident that resulted in the death of a passenger on Aug. 1, 2020.

“Some guy turned in front of me,” Nakhla told the patrol officer. “I slammed onto the brakes and went into a ditch. He didn’t use a blinker, nothing.”

That matches the theory of the case offered by Nakhla’s lawyers, who have suggested that the crash did not result from the defendant’s excessive drinking and speeding – as argued by the prosecution – but the other vehicle.

The driver of that car, Christopher Davis, disputed that on Monday. He testified that he did use his turn signal and that he had plenty of space between himself and Nakhla’s Audi R8 Sypder when he turned into the Comfort Inn on the Interstate 65 service road.

The trial has moved at an often-plodding pace, which frequent and sometimes-lengthy discussions outside the presence of jurors. But it is nearing a conclusion. Prosecutor Ashley Rich told Mobile County Circuit Judge Ben Brooks on Tuesday that she expects to rest her case by the end of the day Wednesday. The defense then would begin its case on Thursday.

Prosecutors allege that Nakhla has a blood alcohol level beyond the legal limit and was driving 138 mph seconds before impact. The sports car flipped several times and landed upside down in a ditch, according to testimony. Samantha Thomas, a 24-year-old medical student who was riding with Nakhla, died immediately.

Nakhla later repeated his account to the doctor who was treating him.

“They didn’t have a signal,” he said. “They didn’t have anything. … I wasn’t doing anything crazy.”

Prosecutors previously played parts of that recording for the judge, outside the presence of the jury. Brooks ordered portions of the audio to be muted when Nakhla and the officer chatted about politics and gun control. The defense argued those conversations would not relevant and possibly could unduly influence jurors.

Nakhla, at times, expressed impatience. He told the doctor treating him that he was fine and never lost consciousness.

“I remember everything,” he said.

Nakhla told the officer his has great respect for law enforcements and that he believes police officers and teachers are underpaid. He also asked for the commander of a unit of police surgeons. He served in that volunteer position and, according to previous testimony, bragged about getting out of tickets by flashing a badge and identification card issued to him by that unit.

Nakhla told the officer that he tried to help his passenger and checked her pulse but could not free her from the car. The officer marveled at how well Nakhla fared.

“You walked away from it,” he said.

Answered Nakhla: “I don’t know how.”