Expert witness testifies 2020 fatal wreck in Mobile ‘never would have occurred’ if driver wasn’t speeding

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 1:25 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Former neurosurgeon Jonathan Pishoi Nakhla would not have crashed in 2020 if he had been driving the speed limit, an expert witness testified Thursday.

Former Alabama State Trooper Ronnie Redding, who now has an accident reconstruction consulting firm, testified at Nakhla’s reckless murder trial that he replicated the work of Mobile police and reached the same conclusion that the Audi R8 Spyder was moving 138 mph nine seconds before it came to a final rest in a ditch off of the Interstate 65 service road in August 2020.

Prosecutors also played two- and three-dimensional animations depicting how the accident occurred. Those images showed Nakhla’s car in relation to a vehicle that was turning into the Comfort Inn. The defense argues that driver caused the accident but cutting in front of Nakhla without signaling.

But Redding testified that it took only about 3½ seconds for the Audi to travel 750 feet from the point where it was traveling 138 mph to the start of skid marks indicating where Nakhla swerved on the westbound service road. Had the car been going 45 mph, Redding testified, it would have taken 11 seconds to cover the distance.

“Speed was a factor in this crash,” Redding testified.

Asked specifically about how it would have played out if the car had been going 45 mph, he said: “This crash would have never occurred.”

Nakhla, 38, was a prominent brain surgeon at Mobile Infirmary at the time of the wreck. He since has lost his job and surrendered his medical license. Testimony indicates that his sports car flipped several times, struck a guardrail and landed upside down a little after midnight. It instantly killed his passenger, 24-year-old medical student Samantha Thomas.

Defense attorney Dennis Knizley challenged Redding on cross-examination about the veracity of his analysis of the car’s event data recorder, known as the “black box.” Knizley pointed out that the report did not contain information about airbag deployments. Redding testified that those deployments were not recorded because of limitations of the black box.

“The airbags went off … and they deployed like they’re supposed to,” he said. “Everything worked as it was supposed to. We just don’t have it recorded because everything happened so fast.”

Knizley reminded Redding of his testimony at a hearing three weeks ago outside the presence of the jury in which he indicated that he did not have an explanation for why the black box did not record those deployments.

Knizley asked what had changed between then and now since Redding had performed no additional tests or consulted additional research materials.

“What I had to do was stop back and take another angle,” he said.

Redding testified that multiple airbag deployments could be captured in a single “event” from the black box.

“I’ve seen it multiple times,” he testified.

But Knizley challenged the witness on his testimony about the airbags.

“You’re just simply speculating, are you not?” he said.

Answered Redding: “No, sir, I’m not speculating.”

Redding acknowledged that the explanation he testified to is not documented in the “data limitations” section of his written report.

“It doesn’t say what you just said,” Knizley said.

Redding will continue his testimony after a lunch break. The defense is expected to begin its case later on Thursday.