Jennifer Hall’s new attorney responds to patient death notices

Jennifer Hall Hoodie

Jennifer Anne Hall pictured after her arrest in Kansas (Livingston County Sheriff’s Office)

A former respiratory therapist accused of murdering two patients decades ago now has a new attorney, and defense attorneys say the recently filed charges are built on sand.

“This is a case based on a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking,” Molly Hastings said KTVI in an interview on Tuesday about her view of the state’s trial of client Jennifer Anne Hall.

Hall, 42, was first charged in May 2022 for allegedly poisoning patient Fern Franco, 75, in May 2002 with the muscle relaxant succinylcholine. Medical serial killer experts determined that the victim’s death was a homicide. Then, last week, authorities charged her with the murder of patient David Wesley Harper, 37. As in the other case, the victim died in 2002, authorities allege Hall used succinylcholine.

The drug can kill people by paralyzing the diaphragm muscles and causing asphyxiation.

The patients were at Hedrick Medical Center in the city of Chillicothe, Missouri. Authorities said the facility saw an alarming increase in heart failure incidents – 18 – while Hall worked there as a respiratory therapist from December 2001 to May 2002. Nine patients died, including Franco and Harper. The nursing staff apparently believed Hall was responsible for the patients’ deaths because she had access to the patients and the potentially fatal drugs. According to investigators, their discovery and method of notifying staff of each person’s cardiac emergency was also noticed.

However, Hall has long maintained her innocence.

“Never,” she said The Kansas City Star In 2015, she denied claims that she harmed patients. “No never.”

“My name just gets thrown out there, and for terrible reasons,” Hall said.

Hastings, for her part, maintained her client’s presumed innocence.

“We have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and look forward to the opportunity to defend you against each and every one of those charges,” Hastings told Law&Crime on Wednesday.

Hall’s longtime attorney Matthew O’Connor, who referred the case to Hastings because he was retiring, previously said the Franco case rested on “conjecture and speculation.” He also said that Hall had previously been wrongly convicted in connection with a hospital fire.

“This case is based on the hindsight of people who were dealing with issues in their own hospital, and when they became aware of Ms. Hall’s previous wrongful conviction, they started shoving pieces at her,” he said KCUR in a report dated May 9, 2022. “They have been trying to find evidence for years and it hasn’t even gotten to the level of a civil proceeding, which is a much lower standard. The Missouri Supreme Court dismissed this case on a civil basis.”

O’Connor claimed his client did not have access to the drugs found in Franco’s body.

By “prior unlawful conviction,” the attorney referred to the how Hall was convicted of arson at another hospital in 2001, the Cass County Medical Center in Harrisonville, Missouri. She served a year in prison from June 2003. However, her new representation in that case argued that her trial attorney failed to look for alternative causes of the fire, which caused $23,000 in damages. A defense expert determined that the true cause of the incident was an old watch that experienced an electrical short in a wire. The defense successfully appealed for ineffective counsel, and her 2005 retrial ended in acquittal.

“You have no confession,” Hastings told KTVI of the recent murder allegations. “You have a lot of people looking back and making assumptions, but I think there’s definitely a lot to do from a criminal defense perspective.”

Jerry Lambe and Matt Naham contributed to this report.

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