Widmer defense calls lead investigator, evidence into question in attempt to get 4th trial

LEBANON, Ohio - Despite a controversial verdict that led to a retrial, a hung jury and finally a conviction, Ryan Widmer may face a fourth trial for the death of his wife.

Widmer, who was found guilty of murdering his wife in February 2011, had a defense team appear before the Middletown 12th District Court of Appeals Tuesday morning in an attempt to claim innocence for his wife's death and bring a fourth trial. Widmer's wife Sarah was found dead in the bathtub of their Hamilton Township home in August 2008.

Widmer's attorney, Michele Berry, argued that her client's rights of due process were violated before and during his third trial that resulted in his conviction.

Berry's argument centered on former lead investigator and Hamilton Township Lt. Jeff Braley, who's credibility was called into question for lying on his employment application about his service history.

Berry said that the Warren County Prosecutor's Office knew of Braley's "credibility problem" but withheld it from Widmer's defense team.

"[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," said Berry.

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.

"She is making the case that the state harmed Widmer's ability to defend himself," said Mark Krumbein, a Cincinnati attorney and follower of the Widmer trials.

Mike Greer argued on behalf of the Warren County Prosecutor's Office and told the three-judge panel that Braley wasn't the only one to submit evidence and that Berry offered nothing but opinion that Braley's credibility issues impacted the case. Greer said Braley's involvement was ultimately very limited.

The two attorneys argued the case for less than an hour.

The panel of judges will review the arguments and issue a decision in the coming weeks.

Widmer's father, Gary, was at the hearing.

"I talk to him everyday," said Widmer's father. "He's doing as well as can be expected. I don't know how else to put that. He's obviously not happy with where he is at because he is not supposed to be but he's doing OK."

Widmer is currently serving 15 years to life in prison.

It will likely be several weeks before a judge hands down a decision based on information from Tuesday's hearing.

Stay with 9 News and WCPO.com for updates as they become available.

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