(LAS VEGAS CBS KXNT)  Dr. Dipak Desai and two nurses accused of infecting patients with Hepatitis C entered not guilty pleas Wednesday on a charge of second degree murder. The two nurses are also co-defendants with Desai in a separate medical negligence trial that includes racketeering charges.

In an effort to delay the proceedings, the defense team claimed there should be no separate murder trial, since the victim is one of the plaintiffs in the medical negligence trial that’s already underway, and since Nevada law provides for additional punishment if a plaintiff in a medical negligence case dies.

The patient who died was 77-year-old Rodolpho Meana. The State’s attorney reiterated the accusation that nurses Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman were responsible for exposing Meana and six other patients to the virus.

Defense argued vigorously that the State had no basis for filing murder charges separately.

“To say these are two different cases is to throw away reason,” Attorney Micheal Cristalli told the court.  Another member of the defense team called second degree murder an “inflated charge.”

The defense team has filed a Supreme Court challenge to the indictment in the medical negligence trial.  They believe the decision from the high court would guide the judges in both trials, and told Judge Stefany Miley there would be “no harm, no foul” in waiting.

Judge Miley rejected the request for a stay, and also rejected a request that the defendants be excused from posting further bail, since they’ve attended all court hearings and met the obligations of the bail they’ve posted in the other case.

Attorney Michael Cristalli predicted “significant legal challenges as it relates to the legality of the filing of the murder charge.”   Ordinarily the state would go to the same grand jury with a “superceding indictment,” in which the death of the patient would be rolled into the charges and placed before same presiding judge, Cristalli told KXNT.


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