Ryan Widmer’s attorney has filed her second appeal to the 12th District Court of Appeals, this time hoping to get a fourth trial based largely on the lead detective in the Warren County murder case.
The 12th District panel heard arguments in the first appeal last month on the issue of an alleged improper seizure of the bathtub in which Widmer’s wife Sarah died. Judge Neal Bronson denied Widmer’s request for a fourth trial in January, after the original appeal was filed.
Widmer, 31, was convicted last year for drowning his wife their Hamilton Twp. home in 2008. It was the third murder trial for Widmer. The first conviction was overturned by juror misconduct. The second jury was hung. He is serving 15 years to life in prison.
Attorney Michele Berry-Godsey filed her 81-page appeal in Middletown on Monday. The bulk of the appeal centers on lead detective Jeff Braley, who resigned last year after an investigation revealed he lied on his job application about his educational and employment experience.
A report also noted his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Hamilton Twp. Police Department was due to the fact he told officials he served in the “ultra-elite” Special Forces unit of the U.S. Air Force — he did not.
Defense attorneys were never allowed to use the information to impeach Braley’s qualifications. Had they been able, Berry-Godsey asserts the outcome of the trial would have been different.
“The flaws in Braley’s investigation that the defense attempted to point out to the jury carry more weight when the jury learns that the person in charge of this investigation was an incompetent, serial liar who utterly lacked the qualifications to properly handle this investigation,” she wrote. “Yet the court prohibited the defense from cross-examining Braley about his full background and the state failed to disclose the extent to which Braley had conned his way into obtaining positions with the Hamilton Township Police Department that he was never qualified to obtain.”
She also found a flaw in the fact the township did not launch the independent investigation into Braley’s credentials until the day after Widmer was convicted. She said this “smacks of an intentional delay and a ‘cover-up’.”
The township’s attorney could not be reached for comment on the timing of the investigation.
Legal expert Ian Friedman said it looks like the appeal may have merit.
“Even though as a criminal trial lawyer I am surrounded by human tragedy on a daily basis, I am most saddened when allegations of intentional misconduct are made in any legal proceeding. It undermines the very fabric of the criminal justice system and betrays the public’s trust,” he said. “If any of the contentions in the appellant’s brief are true, Mr. Widmer should be afforded a new trial.”
Prosecutor David Fornshell said he hadn’t read the brief yet so he couldn’t comment.