MasonBuzz.com reporter Rachel Richardson is tweeting the third trial of Ryan Widmer live from the courtroom. Get the latest developments in the case live by following @Mason_buzz on Twitter.
Judge Neal Bronson finished reading instructions to the jury around 1:10 p.m. after they listened to closing arguments all morning.
For the first time in his three trials, the jury may consider a “lesser included offense,” involuntary manslaughter, if jurors find that prosecutors failed to prove Widmer intended to kill his wife, Sarah Widmer, on the night of Aug. 11, 2008.
To convict him of murder, jurors must find that Widmer “purposely caused the death of Sarah Widmer,” Judge Bronson told the jury.
The lesser offense of “involuntary manslaughter” would be proven if jurors are convinced that Widmer assaulted his wife, causing her death without purposely intending to do so, the judge said.
If convicted of the lesser offense – a third-degree felony – the Mason man woulld face a possible prison term of one to five years, but could get probation. If convicted of murder, Widmer will be sentenced to a mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison.
Widmer is standing trial for a third time, following mistrials caused by juror misconduct in 2009 and a hung jury in 2010. He is accused of drowning his wife, Sarah, 24, in the bathtub of their Hamilton Township home in 2008.
Lawyers made their case before a packed courtroom.
Asst. Prosecutor Travis Vieux told the jury to accept the reasonable, reject the unreasonable and use common sense in deciding if Widmer killed his wife. He pointed to evidence of injuries to Sarah Widmer’s head and neck and the testimony of a witness who alleges Widmer confessed to her among the pile of evidence against him.
“After careful review of the evidence in this case… the only reasonable conclusion you can come to is Ryan killed Sarah,” Vieux told jurors.
Defense attorney Jay Clark countered that authorities still don’t really know what happened to Sarah Widmer, and that “mistakes, misunderstandings and shortcuts” wrongly placed suspicion on their client.
“Reasonable doubt is here today,” Clark told jurors. “You can’t convict him if you stick to the evidence. The only way you can do it is if you speculate.”
After closing arguments, the judge read a detailed set of instructions to jurors, who then began deliberating on a verdict.
In 2010, jurors deliberated about 30 hours before declaring they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous decision.
In 2009, jurors voted unanimously to convict Widmer of murder while acquitting him of a more serious charge of aggravated murder. That verdict was later voided because of juror misconduct.