The former head nurse at a Placerville nursing home will stand trial on charges of felony elder abuse after a judge today rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case.
Donna Darlene Palmer, a 59-year-old registered nurse, pleaded not guilty and a trial date was set for Aug. 6 in El Dorado County.
Palmer, the former director of nursing at the El Dorado Care Center in Placerville, was one of two nurses at the facility charged in connection with the 2008 death of Johnnie Esco, 77, of Cameron Park. The second nurse, Rebecca Smith, a licensed vocational nurse, negotiated a plea deal last year with California authorities.
The charges were brought by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris' office after the El Dorado County district attorney declined to prosecute.
Palmer's attorney, Patrick K. Hanly, had argued that the state "failed entirely to present any evidence that Donna Palmer knowingly and intentionally violated any duty of care to Mrs. Esco...," according to court papers.
Deputy Attorney General Steven Muni, who is prosecuting the case, contends that both nurses failed to perform their duties and to adequately supervise staff in caring for Esco, who died after suffering a severe fecal impaction due to chronic constipation.
The case is being closely watched by the nursing home industry and by advocates for the elderly, as criminal prosecutions of nursing home workers remain rare in California. Allegations of abuse or neglect are more frequently handled in the civil courts.
The nursing home has since been sold and renamed.