Saturday marked five years since the death of Sarah Widmer and a years-long legal battle for her husband.
In time, Ryan Widmer endured three court cases before he was ultimately sentenced in 2011 to 15 years to life for drowning his wife in a bathtub inside the couple’s Warren County home.
In the first trial, Widmer was found guilty of murder, but the decision was later thrown out because of juror misconduct. The second trial ended in a hung jury and the third trial sentenced him to his current prison term.
Although time has passed, not all wounds have healed and the case still resonates with many people across the Tri-State.
While some still debate Widmer's innocence or guilt, a portion of the legal community believes technical proceedings in the criminal case will result in a new legal battle in the nation's top court.
Widmer’s attorney, Michelle Berry, contends that police improperly removed the couple's bathtub from their home as evidence.
Prosecutors responded that the argument had no legal merit. A state appeals court agreed with the prosecution.
The Ohio Supreme Court in May denied Widmer’s appeal of the 2012 ruling by the state's 12th District Court of Appeals, denying him a fourth trial.
Widmer's legal team responded by restating their legal argument and commitment to moving forward with the legal process.
“So the decision today is far from the end of the road. Ryan's case involves strong issues that warrant his conviction be overturned. We're confident in that, and we'll move forward relentlessly until he's free,” Berry said after the decision.
Although attorneys are known for their use of conjecture, prominent local defense attorney Mark Kumbien believes Berry’s statement was justified.
While he didn’t say he agreed with her assessment, Kumbien believes Berry’s argument about the bathtub gives her the best legal argument to have the case heard in court again.
“I believe one of the strongest issues is a Fourth Amendment search and seizure issue,” he said. “The key to that is the bath tub they used during the trial. They took it out of the building and brought it to court.”
Krumbein believes the case could eventually end up going to the Supreme Court.
“I think this is a prime case for the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. “If the bath tub is allowed to stay in evidence, that could open the floodgates and police could get all of the things that are in the search warrant.”
That's the direction Berry and Widmer’s defense team plan to take.
"But with the court's decision today, all the issues are ripe for federal review, and we're anxious to move forward with that next step, Berry said after the court ruling in May.
“We have just filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the use of unreliable junk science to allegedly identify a male forearm mark in the bathtub and the illegal seizure of the tub from the Widmer home.”
Berry was discussing both the appeal that was rejected in May and a separate rejected appeal attempt in January that focused on a detective's alleged misconduct and lack of testing of his wife’s remains for a possible genetic disorder.
An appellate attorney is working to advance the case to the top court in the land for what would be Widmer’s last appeal.
It could be a year before the case is heard.
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