CINCINNATI– On Feb. 24, 2014, the Dayton Daily News published an article entitled, " Widmer bathtub murder case back in court."
The article began by explaining how after nearly six years, 39 days in trial, 66 hours of jury deliberations, four state court appeals and a brief visit to the highest court in the land, the quest to free Ryan Widmer continues on.
Widmer's pro bono appellate attorney, Michele Berry-Godsey filed a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati last week asking the judge to free Widmer, who has been convicted of murder for his wife Sarah's death. According to the Daily News, the court document contains 150 pages with six assignments of error and a dozen grounds for relief, with the bulk involving the former lead detective on the case, Jeff Braley, to one extent or another.
Berry-Godsey made a host of allegations that her client's constitutional rights were violated all throughout the protracted case, most of which had already been decided against by the 12th District Court of Appeals, as well as the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts.
Berry-Godsey's arguments have centered around the bathtub that Sarah Widmer drowned in on Aug. 11, 2008, stating that it was illegally seized; that testimony regarding prints on the tub were based on junk science; that the defense should have been allowed to test Sarah's DNA for a rare genetic disorder; and that all three juries should have been alerted of Braley's alleged misrepresentations about his qualifications.
Braley had risen in the ranks of the Hamilton Twp. Police Department, which, according to Berry-Godsey, was mainly due to his false claim of having served in the elite Special Forces unite of the military. Additionally, she alleges that the township officials and others erred in trying to suppress questions about Braley's credibility. Sometimes in a sarcastic tone, she told the court that Braley had made missteps all throughout the investigation.
She wrote, "When one has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with professionals who train for tasks like tracking down and assassinating Osama Bin Laden by parachute landing, unraveling a bathtub mystery in Hamilton Twp., Ohio, is not even resume worthy."
This case has received national and international attention and has involved many twists and turns such as mystery witnesses, a lead detective who was forced to resign, in-laws who supported Widmer in the beginning, who then turned to the prosecutor's side by trial time, as well as attorneys pointing the finger at each other for misdeeds.
This case saw its first verdict in April of 2009 after 23 hours of deliberations, coming back with guilty. The case hinged on the fact that when first responders arrived within minutes of Widmer dialing 911, both the bathroom and Sarah's body were virtually dry with the exception of her damp blond hair. Prosecutors argued that Widmer had drowned his wife of four months and then staged his 911 call.
The verdict was tossed out after it was discovered that several jurors had performed at-home drying experiments and shared their findings with fellow jurors. The second trial took place in 2010 and that jury was hung after 31 hours of deliberations. Several of the jurors said that the lack of evidence of a struggle in the tiny bathroom was key. They also said that while first responders said the scene was dry, they could tell that magazines covering the floor had been wet.
Attorney Ian Friedman told the Dayton Daily News that Widmer had a decent chance of prevailing at this point in the legal process.
"I still think there is meat on the bone here for the court to consider," he said. "There were some real issues to question at the trial level."
Attorney Ian N. Friedman is the current president of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Alumni Association and is on the Executive Committee to the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. He was named the first ever "Lawyer of the Year" by the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2011. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law where he teaches Computer & Criminal Law. Additionally, he has lectured to lawyers across the United States and he has been published in countless mediums and appeared on several national television programs.
To contact Attorney Friedman regarding your criminal case, don't hesitate to call (888) 694-4645 for 24 hour assistance.