Widmer defense: Juror exposed to anti-Widmer Facebook page
Jessica Noll, email@example.com , Contributor: Deb Silverman
7:59 PM, Mar 23, 2011
10:32 PM, Mar 23, 2011
LEBANON, Ohio - Will social networking get Ryan Widmer a fourth trial? A WarrenCounty judge will decide just that.
The defense attorney Jay Clark stood before the judge and laidout problems with the jury from the third trial, asking for a newtrial for his defendant.
“Ryan has not gotten a fair trial. The jury was not fairand impartial.”
The jam-packed courtroom was full of loud chatter Wednesdayafternoon as they sat, awaiting a hearing that could grant RyanWidmer a new trial.
Ryan’s family sat in the front row, including his fatherGary Widmer. However, Ryan, 30, was not present at the hearing.
The defense filed a motion for a new trial and since then theyhave learned that Facebook may be has been a platform for possiblejuror misconduct. That supplement was filed Tuesday and includedfive exhibits including three regarding Facebook issues incorrelation to juror Dreama Epperson.
Once Judge Neal Bronson took his seat at the bench, Jay Clarkbegins by approaching the podium to explain their motion for a newtrial to the judge, including their exhibits.
Epperson, Clark explained to the judge, was exposed to aFacebook page that her sister “liked” called“Ryan Widmer’s guilty and he should be” on Feb.4, which was during the trial’s proceedings. The juryultimately found Widmer guilty on Feb. 16.
Clark explained for the judge how Facebook works in a nutshell.Once you open your profile, he said to the judge, your newsfeed onthe screen shows what friends do on their page, like“liking” another page. That is where Epperson wouldhave seen her sister’s “like” of the Facebookpage “Ryan Widmer’s guilty and he should be”, hesaid. He read line by line what was posted on her Facebookpage.
“Her exposure to it is without question.” And thistype of exposure violates and indicates juror misconduct, he saidto the judge.
The State objected to the Facebook information, as Clark readline by line to the judge. “While this is fascinating, thisis not evidence,” said Assistant Prosecutor John Arnold.
Clark continued, to the judge, Epperson also had a bathtub videoon her Facebook. To the defense, this seemed like evidence of jurymisconduct.
“When you see smoke there is probably somethingthere.”
However, the paperwork filed by prosecutors on Wednesday, justprior to the hearing, included an affidavit from one of the jurorswho defense attorneys suggested didn't follow the jury instructionsbased on alleged Facebook activity and an alleged conversationduring the trial.
In the affidavit juror Epperson said, "I understood the Court'sinstruction that we should not communicate with anyone about thecase, by using social media, the Internet or any tools ofcommunication to discuss or research anything about the case orRyan Widmer…"
The Epperson continued in the document, "While serving as ajuror, I did not discuss the merits or facts of the case before orduring the trial with anybody. I followed the Court's instructionsand did not communicate any information about the case or do anyresearch. I avoided reading any information about the case from anysource, including social media, electronic communications, theInternet or any other media…. To my knowledge andunderstanding, I complied with Judge Bronson's instructions and didnot form or express any opinions about the case, until the jurybegan deliberations."
Mark Krumbein, a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney, said thattoday’s hearing did not turn out in the defense’sfavor.
"The odds are really against the defense."
Krumbein said Facebook and other sites are something that may beout of the judge’s control during a trial.
"These social networking systems are moving so rapidly it's hardfor judges to keep a lid on it."
The judge ended the hearing by saying that he would take allinformation under advisement for his decision.
Widmer was convicted last month of murdering his wife of fourmonths, Sarah, in their Hamilton Township home in August 2008. Theguilty verdict came in his third trial.
The first guilty verdict was thrown out because of jurymisconduct. The second jury was hung.
Widmer is currently serving a 15 years to life sentence.