By Marty Hubbell
Closing arguments ended today in Ryan Widmer’s third trial for the murder of his wife. This was the attorneys’ opportunity to tell the jury what they believed the evidence showed throughout the case. The jury will be instructed that the arguments of counsel are not to be considered as evidence.
After closing arguments the judge read the jury instructions and the jurors entered the jury room for deliberations. All of the exhibits will accompany them, together with the verdict forms.
Some thoughts on the Widmer case:
1. Truth really is stranger than fiction. This case has a lead detective who lied on his police application, a surprise witness that used to work in an Iowa strip joint, a third murder trial, and a married female witness who flew in from Seattle to support the defendant. And, of course, an expert who worked on the Kennedy assassination and testified at the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
2. The State’s surprise witness, Jennifer Crew, testified that Ryan Widmer confessed the murder to her. This witness walked into court with quite a bit of baggage. But the State had to call her as a witness, as a confession will certainly make jurors’ ears perk up.
That being said, her credibility is in question based upon her prior criminal record and past life choices. I spoke to multiple people in the courtroom during her testimony, and they gave her testimony a grade from lukewarm to good.
3. I think the defense team doesn’t expect a NOT GUILTY verdict. They would like one, but such a finding will be even more difficult after the confession testimony from Jennifer Crew. Keep in mind, in the two previous trials, depending on which version you believe, either 22/24 or 20/24 jurors have voted GUILTY at the end of the day.
My guess is the defense would be tickled pink to have another hung jury.
4. People ask me whether Ryan Widmer should testify. The answer: hell no. Rest assured that throughout the three trials Ryan has been prepped and coached to testify, just in case. My guess is that he has done very poorly in these practice examinations.
5. One of the confusing parts of the Law is reconciling guilt with proof. It is entirely possible that a person can be guilty of an offense, but the State lacks the ability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
When would this happen? All the time. This morning I drove to the airport with almost no traffic on the road. A portion of I-71 near downtown Cincinnati has a 55 m.p.h. speed limit. I sped. Although I am technically guilty of this offense, without additional evidence the State would never be able to prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (even with my admission!).
A defendant is presumed innocent of a crime. The State carries the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If that burden is not met, it is a juror’s duty to sign the NOT GUILTY verdict form. Suspicion or ‘probably did it’ does not suffice.
6. freeryanwidmer.com was a website created to assist Ryan Widmer in the defense of his case. This is also the website used by the State’s surprise witness, Jennifer Crew, to get in touch with Ryan. The only real new evidence in this third trial is her testimony. If convicted, how ironic would it be that the group formed to raise money for Ryan Widmer assisted in his ultimate conviction?