The Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals recently heard arguments in an appeal brought by Ryan Widmer. Widmer was convicted of murdering his wife in a bathtub in Warren County. The case grabbed significant local and national attention.
The Appeals court is considering the 2011 conviction by a Warren County Jury. Ryan was convicted after two previous mistrials, one as a result of alleged juror misconduct.
According to the descriptions in the media, the oral argument in the Court of Appeals “focused on allegations that authorities improperly withheld information calling into question the credibility of the lead investigator on the case.” The investigator, who worked for the Hamilton Township Police Department, was forced to resign after an investigation found misstatements on his resume. The defense argued that even though the investigator did not provide significant testimony at trial, “his role affected the entire course of the investigation” and that he “jumped to conclusions before exploring possible non-criminal causes of [Widmer’s wife’s] drowning.”
The Assistant Prosecutor assigned to the case argued that the defense arguments should be rejected at speculative. For example, the state suggested, although questions were raised about the bathtub where the crime allegedly occurred, no evidence was found suggesting that the investigator did anything improper. The state also pointed to the other evidence in the trial that supported Widmer’s guilt, including the 911 call and the testimony of medical experts.
The Appeals Court is also considering whether to compel the state to allow new genetic testing of the victim’s blood to search for evidence of a heart-rhythm disturbance that could have led to her drowning.
A ruling is expected in early 2013. Ryan is in prison while the Appeals Court considers the case. He is serving a sentence of 15 years to life.
The appeal in this type of high profile case illustrates the type of vigorousness, knowledge, and courtroom experience necessary for defendants who have been convicted of a crime to achieve favorable outcomes in the courts of appeals. Criminal appeals, especially, require an attorney with considerable experience in state and federal appeals, including federal habeas corpus petitions. This attorney must closely examine what happened at trial to determine the best way to obtain the relief sought. Issues that may be examined include the failure of the state to provide exculpatory evidence (evidence that is favorable to the defense), like in the Widmer appeal. Other issues may include ineffective assistance of counsel, erroneous evidentiary rulings, and errors in sentencing.