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tv   Nightline  ABC  May 21, 2022 12:37am-1:07am PDT

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[ cheers and applause ] this is "nightline." >> tonight -- >> guilty. >> one nurse's deadly mistake. >> i am so sorry for what they have lost. she will never be lost in my mind. >> convicted after a fatal error took a patient's life. how her trial became a rallying cry for frontline workers everywhere. >> the system is set up to make it easy for us to make a mistake like this. and the socialite scammer's spectacular second act. convicted con woman anna delvey now an artist and speaking out while under immigration custody. >> it's an opportunity for me to tell my own story. >> but is she really cooking up creative works or just another scheme?
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♪ good evening. thank you for joining us. we begin with the former nurse convicted after accidentally giving a patient the wrong medication. her case motivating health care professionals to stand by her,
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fearing this could set the standard for criminalizing similar medical mistakes. here's abc's eva pilgrim. >> good morning. good morning. >> reporter: there's a sense of peace here. a sense of hope. a sense that god's country is not just a southern expression, but something much more. >> every day is a gift. every day that i get up, free in my home, is a gift. >> reporter: here in her serene corner of rural tennessee, redonda lives her small slice of the simple life, an almost unimaginable reality of the maelstrom the 38-year-old former nurse has lived through. do you feel like you were a scapegoat? >> the whole world feels like i was a scapegoat. there's a fine line between blame and responsibility.
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nothing is done in a vacuum. >> the trial begins for former nurse, vanderbilt medical center, accused of administering a fatal dose of the wrong medication. >> reporter: for the past five years, redonda vaud has faced the life of her life. a former intensive care unit nurse who in 2017 accidentally gave the wrong drug to a patient, charlene murphy, causing her to lose her life. a tragic mistake, but what followed was a whirlwind that surprised many. criminal charges and a conviction for an accident. >> we, the jury, find the defendant guilty of criminally negligent homicide. >> reporter: tonight, the nurse at the center of it all -- >> have you played this over and over and over in your head? >> every day. so many times. over and over and over. >> reporter: and -- >> we went from health care heros to sacrificial lambs. >> reporter: the nationwide fight for change from the frontline workers fearing they could be next.
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>> almost every nurse has had a medication error of some sort. that could be any one of us. >> did you like being a nurse? >> yeah. you have this purpose. to take care of them. you just want to do the very best you can. >> reporter: it can take a lifetime for someone to find their purpose. by 2017, radonda knew she had found hers in the neurological intensive care unit of vanderbilt medical center in nashville. >> it's christmastime, 2017. elderly woman named charlene murphy is admitted into the hospital for brain injury. she's treated, soon ready to be released. but needs a final scan before she can be sent home. which requires her to have a sedative because she was nervous about the scan. you're the nurse that's now called in to help. when did you realize something went wrong? >> it wasn't until she had been
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brought back to our unit as an intensive care patient, and a code had been called in the pet scan area where she was. >> reporter: radonda was supposed to give charlene a said vin, versid. instead she accidentally administered a powerful paralyzing drug, a catastrophic mistake which caused charlene severe brain damage. >> her primary nurse had approached me and showed me the vial of medication and asked, is this what you gave her? it wasn't until that time that i realized that it was the wrong medication that i had given her. >> reporter: at 75, charlene would die from that fatal dose. >> when you saw the vial and you read what was on the vial, what goes through your head? >> your heart goes through the floor.
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um -- you just -- oh, you can't even imagine. >> reporter: vanderbilt fired her, but what came next shook her to her core. after multiple investigations, her nursing license revoked and the national district attorney charged radonda with reckless homicide and abuse of an impaired adult in 2019. >> those words? >> reckless. reckless homicide. and abuse. that's heavy. >> reporter: the prosecution basing its case on what they say were 18 egregious actions and inactions that killed charlene murphy. among them, they argue, was overriding the system used to obtain drugs and ignoring a warning directly on the vial cap. >> we had had to use the override function to obtain
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medications. >> this was a normal part of your routine, having to hit override? >> oh, you couldn't obtain an iv fluid without hitting the override button. >> reporter: she admitted she was distracted that day because she was escorting a trainee. >> any time you have an additional responsibility, that responsibility can be distracting. i allowed myself to split my focus. >> reporter: but her attorneys argued her fatal mistake was made possible by systemic errors involving the hospital's pharmacy, which allowed nurses to routinely override safeguards. a 56-page federal investigative report following murphy's death also outlined deficiencies found at the hospital. >> so many things had to line up incorrectly for this error to have happened. and my actions were not alone in that. >> we're not talking about intentional act. we're not talking about a nurse trying to kill a patient.
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a medical error to lead to a criminal charge in particular a charge of homicide, that's a very, very rare -- i can't think of another recent instance where it has occurred. >> reporter: neither the medical center nor anyone else associated with it faced criminal consequences for the incident. abc news reached out to vanderbilt medical center, but they declined to comment. following a federal investigation, the hospital submitted a corrective plan of action to address some of the findings included in the report. who's responsible in what happened here? >> i mean -- i don't -- nobody wants to point a finger. that's not what you're supposed to do in health care, you don't point your finger and blame someone. you hold yourself accountable as a part of the team and you say, what could i have done better? what could we have done better? i'm responsible for what i failed to do. >> reporter: in march of this year, the jury returned a guilty
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verdict on the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide and on the abuse charge. radonda faced up to eight years in prison. >> let's not forget that radonda's freedom is at stake. >> it really is the straw that broke the camel's back. after everything nurses had been through the last two-plus years, now to be charged criminally and convicted, why would anybody want to be a nurse now? >> reporter: a firestorm spread across the country. a petition calling for clemency for vaught garnered over 200,000 signatures. the american nursing association saying it was deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest mistake and the case setting dress press sent. a spark in a already vulnerable health care system on the brink of collapse. >> we'll spend an entire 12-hour
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shift not going to the bathroom, not eating, not drinking enough water. you get to the end of the day and you're just mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted. >> the system is set up to make it easy for us to make a mistake like this. >> reporter: nurses tina and erika came together to form a support group for radonda. >> i'm so proud of each and every one of you. >> this is a public safety issue. i don't want to live in a world where, if i go to a hospital, the nurses and doctors that are going to be taking care of me would be afraid to speak up if they made a mistake. >> while vaught's performance fell below what the profession kind of aims for, to say if you were to make an error like this you would face a homicide charge and possibly years in prison would cause a lot of those people to reconsider whether to stay a nurse or whether to become a nurse. >> all rise. >> reporter: at her sentencing this month, radonda making a heartfelt apology.
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>> i would like to apologize to the family, first of all. >> she will never be lost in my mind. she will always remind me, every day, of what i need to do to be better as a person. >> reporter: murphy's family grieving and expressing their lost relative's wishes. >> we forgive her. my mother-in-law would want her to be forgiven. jail time is not an option, to me. for her. >> the court therefore finds that judicial diversion is appropriate. >> reporter: radonda vaught sentenced to three years' supervised probation. abc news reached out to the family of charlene murphy, and they declined an interview at this time. >> i will always carry her with me. and if i can -- if i can effect a positive change, i'm going to
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do that. it is heart wrenching to know that miss murphy and her family were so horrifically let down. they are the patient and the family that will live with me the most. >> our thanks to eva. up next, convicted con woman anna delvey dives into her latest project. is it art or is it just a new iteration of her old scheming ways? honestly, i thought i was getting my floors cleaned. then i learned, my mop could be loaded with bacteria. that means i gotta clean my mop too? ugh. so i got a swiffer wetjet to get a cleaner, clean! i stick on a fresh pad. boom! it's ready to go. the spray breaks down dirt. and the pad absorbs it deep inside. unlike my mop that can spread it around. and wetjet's even safe on wood!
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♪ she came, she conned, and she got convicted. infamous socialite, grifter, anna delvey is back with a new endeavor, making art and showing it off this week with her new exhibition title "allegedly." here's abc's ashan singh on her latest round of attention-getting headlines and why she's fighting deportation. >> what do you make of the picture that's been painted of you nationally while you've been locked up? >> um -- well, a lot of it is not fair, and i feel like people just fill in the blanks. and it's an opportunity for me to tell my own story. >> reporter: anna delvey. the notorious con artist. convicted of defrauding new york's elite restaurants, hotels, and banks. speaking to us from inside i.c.e. custody about launching her second act. >> i'm just kind of trying to
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make the best out of my time here. i have so much going on. i just, like, i'm working on my podcasts, my nfts, my art show, my merch line. >> reporer: her latest project at the public hotel in new york city's lower east side. in the form of a chic gallery opening where anna's art is for sale, displayed by runway models with a cat burglar vibe. what do you say to people who say, this is just anna delvey's latest grift? >> i don't know, i really don't care for people who are, like, doubting me. i don't know, they should wait and see for themselves. >> if there's anything that has stayed the same about anna, it's that she's a total chameleon. she did well on the upper east side, she did well in prison. she's now doing well in the art world. >> you know, i think it's real art. i would own an anna delvey original, you know?
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i mean, i probably can't afford it, but if i could, you know, i would definitely have it hang in my living room. >> i definitely think she's not going away any time soon. >> yeah. >> i wouldn't be surprised. >> reporter: anna delvey, legal name anna certiserikon, has bee subject of tabloids for years. running in new york city's elite social circles. defrauding hotels, banks, restaurants, private jet companies out of over $200,000 to support her lavish lifestyle. she was arrested in 2017. in 2019, a jury found her guilty of eight counts, including grand larceny and attempted grand larceny and theft of services. >> the judge sentenced her to four to 12 years behind bars. she ended up serving about four years. and so in february of 2021, shortly after her 30th birthday, she was released. and she was out on the town, back on the streets of new york city, for about six weeks.
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>> reporter: anna's freedom was short-lived. in march 2021, she was picked up by immigration authorities for overstaying her visa. she's been in i.c.e. custody since, fighting deportation while appealing her criminal conviction. >> she could get out and leave any time, so long as she goes back to europe. but anna has no intention of leaving new york. this is where anna delvey was not created, but truly born. she really bought into the new york dream of, you know, if you put in the hustle, you maybe will make it. >> in the event that you do ultimately get deported, do you have a plan? do you have a backup to what life would look like outside the u.s.? >> of course. i always have a plan, obviously. we'll just have to wait and see. >> you know, she's in prison, but, you know, she's also operating like a mini empire from behind bars. >> reporter: even while detained, anna has been trying to stay the talk of the town. by making art. chris martin is a curator
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representing anna. >> how was she actually able to work on her art right now, given that she's incarcerated? >> we basically had to send different supplies, kind of see what stuff got in, what didn't. really, the only things that got in were a few colored pencils, no erasers, no pencil sharpeners, and just 9 x 12 watercolor paper. she can't even make mistakes because she doesn't have an eraser. >> reporter: anna's first solo art show with the tongue in cheek title "allegedly" is live. 20 pieces all sketched and colored while in i.c.e. custody. >> we sold a couple thousand dollars of prints in the first three minutes. >> reporter: some of her pieces sold for $10,000. anna's team says part of the proceeds are going to charities, including the aclu, as well as anna's own legal fees. what do you say to people who say, why should i give money to someone who is already a professional grifter, who has
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already been convicted? >> i don't really see myself that way. and my cases are on direct appeal. so i don't know, i don't see that i have to convince anybody. if they think i'm so bad, they should go and do better themselves, so. >> reporter: one of the buyers of anna's art, patrick peters, the proud owner of "anna on ice." >> we can all kind of see ourselves in her, right? if you look at coming to new york city, you always have this fake it till you make it attitude. i think that anna obviously took that a little bit too far, but i think a lot of people in new york city will look at that and say, wow, you know, i came close to that as well. you know, i wanted to get in those rooms, i wanted to do those things. it makes you look at yourself, how far would i go? >> reporter: at the end of the show, anna appearing by video link to thank her supporters at the first big event of what she calls her reinvention. >> she was just able to do what she did because she's a smooth
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operator, you know? >> reporter: you might believe her, or you might think her motives are still suspect. but to many, regardless of what they think, anna's hustle is simply undeniable. >> i don't think anna would have a problem with people saying this is her new hustle, right? it is. she's trying to get money out of us. she is. there's almost this cult that follows anna. and they love her or they love to hate her, but either way, they're loving something about her, right? either way, they're coming back. >> hopefully people won't judge me for the rest of my life for something that i had allegedly done when i was 23, 24, 25 years old. and everybody deserves a second chance. >> our thanks to ashan. we'll be right back with "the final word." we won! yes!
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♪ that's "nightline" for this evening. catch our full episodes on hulu. we'll see you right back here same time next week. thanks for the company, america. have a good and safe weekend.


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