Janice Morse reports:
Jurors in the Ryan Widmer murder case were provided with all the information they needed to make a sound decision, prosecutors say, arguing that the lead detective’s alleged credibility problems were irrelevant.
Although Hamilton Township police Lt. Jeff Braley was the lead investigator, “(Widmer’s) guilt did not turn upon Lt. Braley’s testimony,” prosecutors wrote this week in their response to Widmer’s second appeal of his 2011 murder conviction. “In other words, Lt. Braley’s credibility was not material…(and) was not determinative of the Appellant’s guilt or innocence. Any issues material to the case were fully aired before the jury.”
Widmer, 31, is serving 15 years to life in prison after being convicted of drowning his wife of four months, Sarah, 24, in their bathtub in Warren County’s Hamilton Township in 2008.
Now county prosecutors and Widmer’s appellate lawyer, Michele Berry, are battling in the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown.
In two separate appeals, Berry asks the court to throw out Widmer’s conviction based on alleged mistakes. The court heard arguments about the first appeal in April and could make a ruling in a few more weeks. That appeal focuses on issues such as alleged illegal seizure of the bathtub.
The second appeal centers largely on Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson’s refusal to allow Widmer’s trial lawyers to grill Braley about false statements in his employment records. Berry contends that, if Bronson had permitted jurors to learn more about Braley, that may have changed the outcome of Widmer’s third trial following two mistrials.
But Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Greer wrote: “The record from the first, second and third trials demonstrates conclusively that the State used the 911 tape, the testimony of the first responders and the testimony of its medical experts to prove that (Widmer) murdered his wife.”
Berry says authorities wrongfully withheld information about Braley, and she argues that Braley’s involvement could have skewed the whole case.
Greer calls Braley’s role in the case “rather minimal,” noting: “he was not solely responsible for collecting most of the evidence.” There also is “not a shred of evidence…that he fabricated or altered any evidence or that he even had the opportunity to do so,” Greer wrote.
A year ago, an independent investigator issued a report revealing more questions about Braley‘s honesty, and Braley resigned. He denied making any false statements.
Next, the appeals court is to set a hearing in which judges will question Berry and Greer about the issues they raised in court documents.
- Second Widmer appeal filed
- Widmer hearing focuses on bathtub
- Three-judge panel reviewing Widmer conviction
- Widmer lawyer vows fight after fourth trial denied
- Widmer lawyers: Bathtub seized improperly
- Ryan Widmer: “I’ll never give up”
- Ryan Widmer found guilty of murder