A nurse murdered four patients at a veterans hospital because she liked the thrill of medical emergencies and wanted to impress her boyfriend, a prosecutor said in opening statements Monday in the state's first capital case since the 1980s.
Kristen Gilbert, 33, of Setauket, N.Y., is accused of murdering four patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton by injecting them with high levels of adrenaline. She is also accused of trying to kill three other patients.
Defense attorney David Hoose said all the patients who died were suffering from serious illnesses that ultimately killed them.
"All life ends," he said. "For the four men who died here, life has simply come to an end."
Hoose said investigators made a scapegoat out of Gilbert, and he suggested her colleagues turned against her because they sided with her husband in a divorce.
Massachusetts banned the death penalty in 1984. This is a federal case, brought by the government because the alleged crimes took place on federal property.
Prosecutor William Welch said Gilbert provoked medical emergencies so she could respond and attract the attention of peers and James Perrault, her boyfriend, who worked as a hospital security guard.
The prosecutor displayed photographs of the patients on several oversized television monitors around the courtroom. He then showed the jury a vial of adrenaline and said Gilbert "transformed this drug from a drug of life into a drug of death, solely for her own personal, selfish pleasures."
Adrenaline is usually used to restore a normal beat to a stalled heart, but when used incorrectly it can make the heart race.
Welch said that each man had a normally functioning heart when he entered the intensive care unit and that Gilbert tried to cover her tracks by falsifying medical reports.
He said Gilbert confessed to the attacks to Perrault and to her ex-husband. He quoted her as telling Perrault, "I did it! I did it! You wanted to know? I killed all those guys by injection."