By Marty Hubbell
What’s next in the Ryan Widmer case? Expect the defense to file a motion for a new trial in the next few days. This motion must be filed within 14 days of the verdict that was rendered on February 15, 2011.
This motion is critical for Widmer’s case, and is separate from the appeal of his actual murder conviction. His appeal would be to the 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown, Ohio; the motion for a new trial would be heard by Judge Bronson in the Warren County Common Pleas Court. The appeal will not be filed until the upcoming motion is resolved in the trial court.
Why is this motion for a new trial important? The 12th District Court of Appeals is probably the most conservative appellate court in the State of Ohio; less criminal convictions are overturned in this court than in any other appellate district. If he cannot persuade Judge Bronson to grant him a new trial, it is likely that the next significant hearing for Ryan Widmer will occur in about 14.5 years, at his first parole hearing.
The defense attorneys are scrambling to find any and all evidence they can to support the motion. From the press releases thus far, it appears that they are going to try to argue some form of juror misconduct.
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?
By: Gabe Moorman
I have been asked by Meghan Mongillo, Dayton’s Fox-45 “In the Morning” co-anchor, to be a guest on their live TV broadcast. I will be answering questions regarding the law and commenting on some of the high profile legal cases in Southwest Ohio. Specifically, we will be discussing the Ryan Widmer and Stacy Shuler cases.
The Widmer trial is approaching its final stage, as the attorneys for both sides will offer their closing arguments on Monday, February 14, 2011. The jury will then begin its deliberation and a verdict will be read by the bailiff at the Warren County Court of Common Pleas in Lebanon, Ohio. It is likely that people from across the country will be listening intently – as will I.
The Shuler trial has not yet started, but interest in the case has been very high from the start. Ms. Shuler was recently indicted on nineteen felony counts of sexual battery along with three misdemeanor counts. She stands accused of having sexual contact with five Mason High School students, most of them believed to be on the football team. Shuler, who recently resigned as a physical education teacher and athletic trainer, has been released and is currently living with her parents pending her trial. Stacy Shuler has been ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device and have no contact with any of the alleged victims or any minors.
I am excited to join Ms. Mongillo at the Fox-45 studio in Dayton and hope to share some interesting and informative perspectives. Please tune in from 7:00 to 9:00 AM.
As I walked out of the Warren County Common Pleas Court in Lebanon, Ohio, this morning, the mood was tense. I had been at the courthouse for a hearing of my own, and couldn’t help but notice the frenzy of reporters and news cameras in and around the area. Virtually every news station in Dayton and Cincinnati was there.
Ryan Widmer, the husband accused of murdering his young wife, was standing in the hallway next to the lobby. He was surrounded by his legal team and a number of supporters. Widmer looked tired and scared. Unlike his previous days at court, he wasn’t laughing. Nor was he smiling. I wonder if something has changed for Ryan Widmer? Maybe he is starting to realize the gravity of this trial – what has been lost, and what is at stake.
I wonder if this attitude change is related to the mystery witness? Is her testimony as damaging as the prosecution seems to suggest? Her role in this ever increasing drama may be pivotal – and, at the least, very interesting.