The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence of a south Georgia doctor who used his position as a physician and access to prescription drugs to have sex with young men. The unanimous ruling, released on Monday, upheld the murder conviction of Dr. Noel Chua (top photo), who was convicted in 2007 for the 2005 death of James Bazley Carter III. The 19-year-old Carter suffered from severe headaches and moved into Chua’s home a month after the doctor began treating him. Chua found Carter (second photo) dead on his bathroom floor on Dec. 15, 2005 and scattered on the floor were pills, physician drug samples and prescription bottles. Chua prescribed medications to Carter, including Morphine, Methadone and Oxycodone. In its 25-page ruling, the court rejected Chua’s contention during arguments on March 8 that introducing evidence of a gay sexual relationship during his trial was “highly inflammatory and unfairly prejudicial.”
It has upheld the trial court’s decision to allow the testimony of two other young men who developed relationships with Chua. One of those relationships involved a 15-year-old with whom Chua had a sexual relationship, and the other involved a 16-year-old who eventually checked himself into a medical facility due to his addiction to hydrocodone prescribed by Chua. The trial court did not err in admitting the “similar transaction” evidence, today’s opinion says, because it “showed a course of conduct by which Chua would use his position as a physician, and his access to prescription drugs, to facilitate relationships with young men, such as the one cultivated with Carter, during which Chua acted beyond his role as a physician when writing prescriptions for Carter.”The court did throw out Chua’s conviction for keeping a dwelling for the purpose of using controlled substances because, “without a showing that a purpose of Chua’s maintaining the house was for such use by Carter, a guilty verdict was not authorized.” Prosecutors contend that Chua used the drugs to entice Carter into living with him. Chua also offered him a job in his office, gave him gifts, and took him on a trip to New York. Before that trip, Chua had Carter tested for HIV. During the trial, prosecutors successfully introduced into evidence Chua’s prior sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy in Pennsylvania.
In today’s unanimous decision, written by Justice P. Harris Hines, the Court finds that “the evidence authorized the jury to find [Noel Chua] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” of distributing controlled substances by prescribing them in a manner that was not “in the usual course of his professional practice,” and was not “for a legitimate medical purpose,” in violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances. By illegally providing controlled substances which Chua knew posed a foreseeable risk of death to a young man with a history of drug problems, the evidence also “authorized the jury to find Chua guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of felony murder by violating [Official Code of Georgia] § 16-13-41,” the opinion says.