The former head nurse at a Placerville nursing home will stand trial for felony elder abuse in connection with the 2008 death of a 77-year-old Cameron Park woman, an El Dorado County judge ruled Tuesday.
More than 4 1/2 years after the death of Johnnie Esco, Judge Daniel B. Proud found there was sufficient evidence to move forward in the criminal case again Donna Darlene Palmer, 58, a registered nurse.
Palmer, who was then director of nursing at the El Dorado Care Center, was one of two nurses at the facility charged criminally by the California attorney general. The second nurse, 39-year-old Rebecca Smith, negotiated a deal earlier this month with the state.
Smith, a licensed vocational nurse, agreed to plead no contest to felony elder abuse in exchange for a possible suspended jail term and her willingness to help prosecutors in their pursuit of Palmer.
The attorney general contends that both nurses failed to perform their duties or to adequately supervise staff in caring for Esco, who died a painful and unnecessary death – despite a devoted family that surrounded her daily, according to testimony and state documents.
The unusual case has drawn widespread attention from the nursing home industry, legal analysts and advocates for the elderly, as criminal prosecutions of nursing home workers remain rare. Allegations of abuse or neglect are more frequently handled in the civil courts.
However, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris' office recently announced plans to step up its efforts with three new specialized teams aimed at building criminal cases statewide against nursing home administrators and employees.
Palmer's attorney, Patrick K. Hanly, said Tuesday he was disappointed by the judge's decision. Hanly, a former assistant U.S. attorney, grilled the prosecution's witnesses and pressed one of the state's key witnesses – also a nurse – into admitting she had withheld information from ...