HAMILTON, Ohio - Ryan Widmer's attorneys announced Thursday they plan to take his case to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Widmer is currently serving a 15 year to life sentence for drowning his wife, Sarah, in their Hamilton Township home in 2008. He was convicted in February of last year during his third trial.
His attorneys disagree with an appeals court ruling that allowed the bathtub where Sarah died to be used as evidence.
As a result, attorney Michele Berry argued before the 12th District Court of Appeals in August in an effort to force a fourth trial for Widmer. She argued her client's rights of due process were violated before and during his third trial that resulted in his conviction.
Her argument centered on former lead investigator and Hamilton Township Lt. Jeff Braley, whose credibility was called into question for lying on his employment application about his service history.
Berry argued that Widmer's trial court made a mistake when it did not allow the defense to subpoena Braley's education and employment background and further did not allow the defense to confront Braley about that background. The appeal asserts that this denied Widmer his Sixth Amendment right to meaningfully confront witnesses who testify against him.
"[Widmer's] constitutional rights allow him to present a defense to the jury that Braley's pattern for lying and his incompetence to hold the position of lead detective in a murder case taints the entire investigation," Berry said.
In addition, Berry argued because Braley's history wasn't admitted into trial, Widmer's defense couldn't question the evidence properly before the jury. Berry also argued that the bathtub where Sarah was found dead was unlawfully seized because it wasn’t listed on the search warrant of the home.
The Court of Appeals disagreed:
"In this case, under the totality of the circumstances, we are unable to say that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding the defense team from questioning Braley about the June 25, 1996(employment)application. The testimony sought to be elicited concerned a disputed application, the trial court held a two-day evidentiary hearing where more than ten witnesses testified about their knowledge of the application or their knowledge of Braley's employment background."
The authenticity of the application was still in question at the time and the appeals court agreed with the trial court that the matter was "collateral" to Widmer's murder trial and was likely to "bog down" the criminal trial and lead to confusion of the jury.
Thus, the appeals court found that Widmer's assertion that his Sixth Amendment protections were violated were without merit. In September the court denied his attorneys' request for a fourth trial.
The first trial ended with a conviction but that was overturned because of alleged juror misconduct. The second trial ended in a hung jury.
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