Judge finds former VA patient’s outcry that nurse hit him admissible evidence

The constitutional right to confront witnesses has few exceptions. A judge has ruled that one exception means two nurses who questioned an intubated VA hospital patient about who hit him will be able to tell a jury what they learned.

 

In an opinion released Friday, Judge W. Wade Padgett ruled against Jeffrey Blochowicz’ motion that sought to block the potential testimony. Blochowicz has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to a charge of exploitation of the elderly.

Blochowicz is accused of hitting William Haymon between Dec. 6-7, 2014, when Haymon was a patient in the intensive care unit at the VA hospital.

Haymon died at the age of 71 on Nov. 8, 2016, of causes unrelated to the alleged assault. If he was alive, he could testify about what happened. But because he can’t testify and undergo cross-examination, any statements Haymon made about what happened would generally be inadmissible. There is an exception if the statement is found to be “an excited utterance,” Padgett wrote.

On Dec. 7, 2014, Mehul Patel was the nurse assigned to Haymon, a frequent patient at the VA whom Patel knew as a happy, easy-going patient. But around 2 p.m., he found Haymon crying. At the time, Haymon couldn’t talk because of the tube in his throat. But when Patel asked what was wrong, Haymon made a motion with his fist as if hitting himself in the face, Patel testified last month.

Patel went to the charge nurse on the shift, and together they questioned Haymon about the person who hit him, narrowing down the possibility to the nurse assigned to Haymon’s care the night before, Blochowicz.

“… it is clear that a reasonable person in Haymon’s position would assume that his attacker was due to return for the night shift later on December 7,” Padgett wrote. The nurses can testify about what they learned from Haymon, Padgett ruled. What weight a jury may give such evidence is the jury’s decision, he added.

Blochowicz is free on a $50,000 bond. His next trial date is Feb. 26.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com

 

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