Ryan Widmer attorneys file appeal to have fourth trial

LEBANON, OH (FOX19) - Attorneys for a man convicted in the drowning death of his wife in their Hamilton Township home in 2008 filed an appeal Monday claiming errors were made during his third murder trial.

Ryan Widmer's attorneys say that six errors were made that violated his constitutional rights.

Widmer, 32, was convicted February 15, 2011. His wife, Sarah, died in August 2008. He is currently serving a 15 year to life sentence for the murder of Sarah.

Widmer's appellate brief was filed Monday by Michelle Berry with the 12th District Court of Appeals, seeking reversal of his conviction.

Berry tells FOX19 in an email the reasons the appeal was filed:

 "A number of constitutional violations occurred before and during Ryan's trial that rendered his third trial fundamentally unfair.  The bathtub was unconstitutionally seized.  Law enforcement never had the right to rip the tub from the Widmer home because it was never authorized by the search warrant, but they did it anyway.  As a result, the state was allowed to admit the tub into evidence at trial and have an expert witness testify about alleged markings in the tub of a male forearm and female finger swipes that the state then used to claim that a struggle had occurred.

This expert should have never had access to the tub because it was unconstitutionally seized from the Widmer house.  But in addition to that, the expert's testimony is "junk science" that is unreliable and has no place in the court room.  There is no scientific way to look at a marking in a tub and say "that's the marking of a male forearm" as opposed to a female forearm, a male shin, a female calf, or any other possible imprint. It's bogus, unreliable, and for a number of reasons, the jury should have never heard that testimony or been able to consider the tub as evidence.

Additionally, the jury wasn't given an option to consider a conviction of a lesser-charge than murder.  If the jury found Jennifer Crew's testimony to be credible, they would have convicted Ryan of involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide.  But the jury wasn't given this option. 

These are just a few of the constitutional violations that occurred during Ryan's third trial.  Through no fault of Ryan's, a fourth trial is warranted based on all of the errors that occurred.  The constitution guarantees all of us as citizens certain guarantees, one of them being, if we're ever brought to trial, that the trial will be fair and that certain procedures will be followed.  Ryan still hasn't had the opportunity.

The appeal asks the appeal court to vacate his murder conviction and give him a fourth trial.

FOX19 Legal Analyst Mike Allen does not think the arguments made by Berry warrant a fourth trial. He says the strongest argument by Berry is the one involving former Hamilton Township Lt. Jeff Braley.

"I do think they can make an argument that the jury should have heard that," said Allen. "I think if Judge Bronson made any mistake, it was not letting the jury know about that."

The first trial resulted in a conviction which was later overturned due to juror misconduct, and the second trial ended with a hung jury.

There is no word on when the court of appeals will make a decision on the appeal.

The Warren County prosecutor, David Fornshell, was asked to comment on the filed appeal. He tells FOX19 that he has reviewed Michelle Berry's brief and their office believes her arguments have no validity nor merit. Their office is not focused on the Widmer case because he has been convicted. Fornshell states the prosecutors office are concentrating on the cases they are currently prosecuting.

The prosecutors office is expected to file a brief with the court of appeals in reply to Berry's brief.

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