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Nurse guilty of killing patients

A former nurse at a veterans hospital was convicted Wednesday of murdering four patients with drug injections in what prosecutors said was an attempt to impress her boyfriend with the way she handled emergencies.

Kristen Gilbert, 33, could get the death penalty.

Massachusetts banned capital punishment in 1984. But the case was tried in federal court, where murder can be punishable by death, because the crimes took place on federal property: the VA Medical Center in Northampton.

The jury reached its verdict on its 12th day of deliberations.

In addition to the four murders, Gilbert was found guilty of giving injections to two other patients who did not die.

She left the courtroom without comment. Both the defense and the prosecution are under a gag order. The jury will return on Monday to begin hearing evidence on whether she should get the death penalty.

Prosecutors said Gilbert injected patients with overdoses of epinephrine, or adrenaline, which sent their hearts racing out of control. They said she wanted to attract attention, especially from her lover, a hospital security guard.

The boyfriend, James Perrault, said she once she told him: "I did it! I did it! I injected those guys with a certain drug." But later, Gilbert told him she was only trying to make him angry, Perrault said. They were breaking up at the time.

Gilbert's lawyers blamed the emergencies and deaths on natural causes, saying the patients were already ill. And they argued that she was falsely accused by co-workers who were upset she was having an extramarital affair with Perrault.

"Every single one of these people had a coronary disease, were at risk for a coronary disease or at risk for sudden cardiac death," defense attorney David Hoose said in closing arguments. "If you start out looking at these cases with a suspicious eye, then you'll find suspicion."

The former nurse was charged with first-degree murder in connection with four deaths. She was found guilty of first-degree murder in three of those deaths and was convicted of second-degree murder and assault in the fourth death.

She was also charged with assault with intent to kill in the case of three other patients who allegedly were given injections but did not die. She was convicted in two of those cases and acquitted in the third.