Methodist Shooting Trial Focuses on Defendant, Witness Testimony

Empty courtroom | Image by Amerigo_images

The jury in a capital murder trial of the parolee who allegedly killed two Methodist Dallas Medical Center employees last fall heard from witnesses and the accused before both the prosecution and the defense rested on Wednesday.

As reported by The Dallas Express, Nestor Hernandez, 31, stands accused of fatally shooting Jacqueline Pokuaa, a social worker, and Katie Flowers, a nurse, in a maternity ward on October 22, 2022. As a parolee convicted of violent aggravated robbery, Hernandez had been given permission to visit his then-girlfriend Selena Villatoro and their newborn child that day.

However, Hernandez, reportedly armed and agitated, became violent and allegedly ended up killing both healthcare workers before being apprehended by police. 

After Hernandez’s trial began on November 6, his defense attorney, Paul Johnson, told jurors that he wanted them to “keep an open mind” as they weighed whether to convict the defendant of murder or capital murder, with the former granting him the possibility of parole, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Hernandez also spoke on his own behalf, claiming that he had accidentally shot Pokuaa when she intervened while he and Villatoro were fighting over the weapon inside her hospital room, according to Fox 4 KDFW. Everything that happened after that, he said, was born of sheer panic and confusion.

“I was just panicked, I just shot somebody. I was just real panicked,” Hernandez claimed.

However, testimony from eyewitnesses, including Villatoro, painted a chilling scene of violence in what prosecutor George Lewis described as “hell on Earth,” according to DMN.

“He looked at me … with a smirk on his face,” recalled supervisory nurse Stacey Smith, per DMN, as she told the court about seeing Hernandez standing in the doorway of Villatoro’s room and shooting Flowers in the hall.

Next, Methodist police sergeant Robert Rangel testified on the stand that he sprang into action.

“I fired at that time because I feared for my life. I feared that if he came out of that room, he was going to try to shoot more people,” said Rangel, according to Fox 4.

The trial is expected to conclude on Thursday, with jury deliberations expected to start after the court’s charge is read and both sides present closing arguments.

Although the alleged double murder occurred within Dallas city limits, the crime was not included in the City of Dallas crime statistics for 2022. Because the hospital has its own police force, the City and the Dallas Police Department did not have primary jurisdiction.

Murder has been on the rise in Dallas this year, with DPD logging an increase of 12.6% year over year, with incidents jumping from 191 to 215, according to the City of Dallas crime overview dashboard.

DPD has been experiencing a significant staffing shortage, maintaining fewer than 3,200 officers at present. A City analysis claims a municipality the size of Dallas needs roughly 4,000 sworn law enforcement personnel, about three for every 1,000 residents.

The shortage has been felt in Downtown Dallas, which logs far more crime than Fort Worth’s downtown area. The latter is reportedly patrolled by private security guards and a special police unit.

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