Janice Morse reports:
An appeals court is considering whether a detective’s alleged pattern of lying tainted the entire case against Ryan Widmer, a Warren County man convicted of murder in the 2008 bathtub drowning of his wife, Sarah.
The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard arguments on the second of two appeals that Widmer is pursuing as he attempts to get his 2011 conviction overturned. That conviction came during Widmer’s third trial, following two controversial mistrials. He’s serving 15 years to life in prison.
Tuesday’s arguments focused on allegations that authorities improperly withheld information calling into question the credibility of the lead investigator on the case, Jeff Braley, who resigned from the Hamilton Township Police Department last year after an independent investigator said the township had reason to question his honesty.
An assistant prosecutor and Widmer’s appellate attorney each had 15 minutes to argue their points in court.
Michele Berry,Widmer’s lawyer, told the appeals judges that Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson “really went astray” when he characterized Braley as a minor trial witness . Regardless of Braley’s testimony during the trial, his role affected the entire course of the investigation, Berry asserts, and his alleged “pattern of lying,” dating to 1997, is reason to doubt the integrity of the investigation.
Bronson barred Widmer’s lawyers from grilling Braley about his credibility, including documents asserting he held a master’s degree from two colleges that say he never attended. Berry asserts that authorities knew about these alleged falsehoods and others but withheld that information from Widmer’s lawyers.
Armed with that information, Widmer’s lawyers would have been able to pursue a different trial strategy, Berry said; they would have argued that the case, from its premise, was tainted because of Braley’s involvement. Even before Braley declared the Widmer home a crime scene, Braley had given the county coroner information that he relied upon to declare Sarah Widmer’s death a homicide, Berry said.