New Hearing on Crash That Killed Florida Oncologist

Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

June 01, 2021

Three years ago, oncologist Charles Canaan Williams, Jr, a lung cancer specialist and a senior member of the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, was killed when an orange Dodge Charger flew through a stoplight at 95 mph and slammed into his car.

The driver of the car, Igbinosa Oghubor, was subsequently charged with vehicular homicide. Defense attorneys now say that Oghubor should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

During a routine hearing last week, a prosecutor said that the state was inclined to agree, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. Oghubor, who is 38 years old, was examined by three mental health experts hired by the defense and the state. They concluded that he was insane at the time of the accident.

Additionally, last year, his public defenders filed a written notice of an insanity defense, stating that Oghubor suffered from "bipolar disorder with psychotic features." Under the current law, this means that he could not comprehend what he was doing or the consequences of his actions.

"The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is prepared to agree that Igbinosa Oghubor must be found not guilty by reason of insanity," said Grayson Kamm, a spokesperson for the office. "We came to this conclusion with a heavy heart — this tragedy has caused incredible pain for the victim's family and our community.

"However, Florida law is clear ― when someone was so mentally unstable that they could not tell right from wrong at the time of a crime, they cannot be convicted," he told Medscape Medical News.

Kamm emphasized that this conclusion is based on thorough assessments from three psychiatric experts. "All agreed that Oghubor did not know that what he was doing was wrong and could not understand the consequences of his actions on March 28, 2018," he said. "That morning, driving at high speed, Oghubor fatally crashed his car into the car of a 70-year-old victim."

Since the crash, the defense has produced detailed records that show that Oghubor has lived with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, for approximately 20 years and that he had been hospitalized multiple times. "Leading up to the crash, his medication was changed, ultimately leading him to be in a state of manic psychosis where he suffered a complete break from reality," Kamm said. "Officers responding to the crash corroborate these findings, saying Oghubor was found wandering aimlessly around the scene and eating grass."

Physician Was Mentor to Many

Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Williams attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. He held a clinical fellowship in medical oncology-hematology at the University of South Florida in the late 1970s. He was the first Black medical resident at Tampa General Hospital.

He spent most of his career at Moffitt, beginning his tenure there when it first opened in 1986. He became a mentor to many oncologists over the years.

One of his mentees was John Sinnott, MD, who was just out of his residency when he first met Williams. At that time, Williams was focused on hematology/oncology.

"I remember not being especially interested in hematology because, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of great patient outcomes," said Sinnott in a comment to the Tampa Bay Times. "Many patients die. But he changed my mind completely. The lessons I learned from him were invaluable."

Sinnott, who is now the chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida's College of Medicine, recalled something that Williams said regularly when mentoring medical students and young physicians.

"I'll never forget when he told me, 'It's not our job to relieve pain, it's our job to relieve suffering. The way we relieve suffering is by talking to patients about what's happening. We sit on the bed with patients to be at eye level. We make eye contact with them. And we tell them, together we're going to fight this battle.' "

Hearing Set for June

The next hearing for this case is set for June 21. At that hearing, psychiatric experts will testify about Oghubor's future. If Obhubor is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he cannot be held criminally responsible for the accident. A judge will then decide on a course of future mental health treatment.

"The victim in this case was a bright light in our community whose passion was helping others," said Kamm. "We continue to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the victim's family and appreciate their understanding. Our duty is to follow the law — and, according to multiple experts, the facts of this case fit Florida's criteria for insanity, therefore, not guilty by reason of insanity is the only lawful outcome."

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