Home U.S. Attorneys spar over motivation in closing arguments of Dallas hospital shooting trial

Attorneys spar over motivation in closing arguments of Dallas hospital shooting trial


The man who shot and killed two people in a Dallas hospital last year is guilty, both the state and his own attorneys said in closing arguments of his capital murder trial Thursday. What the two sides of the case disagree on is the crime of which he is guilty.

Nestor Hernandez, a 31-year-old convicted felon, is accused of shooting and killing social worker Jacqueline Pokuaa and nurse Annette Flowers on Oct. 22, 2022. at Methodist Hospital in Dallas. If found guilty of capital murder he will face life in prison without parole.

Jurors will begin deliberating Thursday afternoon following a lunch break.

Hernandez’s attorneys told the jury in closing arguments that this was not a case of capital murder, encouraging the jurors to find him guilty of a lesser charge or murder or manslaughter.

In closing arguments, attorneys for both sides focused on whether the shootings were premeditated. The prosecution said Hernandez arrived at the hospital that day, a beer in his hand, with the intention of shooting and killing people. The defense tried to blame Hernandez’s girlfriend, who was in the hospital after just giving birth, by saying she antagonized him.

While both agreed that Hernandez was guilty, his attorneys repeatedly pleaded with jurors to hand up a verdict for a lesser crime.

The defense said Hernandez was beating his girlfriend with a gun when the firearm went off and he accidentally shot Pokuaa. Then, they said, he accidentally shot Flowers.

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Hernandez took the stand Wednesday to testify, telling the jury he brought his girlfriend’s bag into the hospital knowing there was a gun inside. But he contradicted the testimony of a nurse who described the incident.

The nurse, Stacey Smith, told jurors Hernandez was standing in the doorway of the hospital room after his girlfriend gave birth to their son. She testified that he was taking deliberate aim with the gun.

“I see him standing in the doorway and he’s pointing a gun out … and he’s just looking and shooting,” Smith said.

The girlfriend told jurors that Hernandez walked into the hospital holding a beer and after they argued about his drinking, he told her he would kill her and anyone who came into her hospital room.

Hernandez told jurors the shooting was an accident, happening after he and his girlfriend got into a fight, arguing about whether he was the father, and Pokuaa got between them to try to stop the “tussle” in which he was accused of hitting his girlfriend several times. Bruises from his attack on his girlfriend were shown to the jury Tuesday.

Hernandez said at that point he accidentally shot and killed Pokuaa, then shot out the doorway in a panic. That’s when Flowers was hit and killed, he said. Hernandez told the jury he did not intentionally shoot Flowers.

The prosecution showed body-camera video of an officer who was at the hospital taking a report when the shooting started. In the footage, the gunshots can be heard and Flowers can be seen getting shot while standing in front of the door to the room Hernandez was in.

The prosecution said that Hernandez would not have brought additional ammunition and another magazine for the handgun had he not planned to kill people.

The officer testified that he shot Hernandez to stop the gunman. Hernandez was booked into jail after he was released from another hospital where he was treated for that gunshot wound.

Witnesses also told the jury that Hernandez was high or intoxicated at the time of the shooting.

His girlfriend testified Tuesday that Hernandez planned to kill the first person to walk into the room.

The defense told the jury in closing statements that if Hernandez was actually there with the intention of shooting and killing people, his girlfriend would be dead.

Hernandez has served two previous prison sentences and was on parole at the time of the shooting.

In closing arguments Thursday, the defense told jurors that Hernandez’s girlfriend was using the baby’s birth certificate as leverage. She threatened to keep his name off the certificate and not recognize him as the child’s father, the defense attorney said.

“How do you think that’s going to make a man feel?” the defense asked the jury.

The defense attorney asked the jury to give Hernandez “the ultimate presumption of innocence” while deliberating.

Prosecutors told the jury that wasn’t the case. They said Hernandez was “masquerading as a caring, loving father.”

“He was full of anger and rage,” the prosecution said.

Attorneys for the prosecution asked the jury to remember the victims of the shooting while deliberating.

The prosecution in the case worked to paint Hernandez as a man without control over negative emotions, letting his anger lead him to take a gun to the hospital with the intention of killing people as revenge based on the belief that his girlfriend was cheating on him. The defense tried to describe him as someone who was pushed to the edge and accidentally killed two people while beating his girlfriend with a gun.

The prosecution said in closing arguments that the defense’s narrative was not credible.