Widmer's conviction upheld; no fourth trial

MIDDLETOWN, OH (FOX19) - The Ohio Court of Appeals has upheld Ryan Widmer's conviction, and he will not get a new trial.

A three judge panel for the 12th District Court of Appeals upheld the ruling on Monday morning. Click to read the entire ruling.

Widmer, 31, is serving a 15 years to life sentence for killing his wife, Sarah, in the bathtub of their home in 2008.

Widmer's attorneys made two appeals in the case. In the first appeal, attorney Michele Berry argued that several mistakes were made throughout the investigation. She said authorities should not have seized the bathtub where Sarah Widmer drowned, and that one of the prosecution's witnesses during the third trial gave testimony on fingerprints and forearm smears on the bathtub that was based on junk science.

The bathtub was seized from the home on Aug. 13, 2008, five days after Sarah's death. His attorneys filed a motion to suppress just days before the second trial, but it was denied for not being filed in a timely fashion.

During the third trial, the defense objected when prosecutors submitted the tub as evidence.

Widmer's attorneys argued that "the 'latent fingerprints' provision of the search warrant is overly broad in nature and does not authorize the seizure of the bathtub. Widmer contends the bathtub was an item officers knew existed prior to requesting the warrant to search the home, and, as such, should have been specifically listed in the warrant as an item to be searched and seized."

The appeals court said they found the argument to be "without merit" and that "the police had probable cause to associate the bathtub, and the markings found therein, as the instrument used to drown Sarah."

The defense also argued about senior criminalist William Hillard's testimony about body part impressions found in the tub.

Hillard testified that a fingerprint in the tub were made by a person of small stature, like a child, a female, or small male, and there was a forearm print from an adult male. However, the defense said this was outside of Hillard's area of expertise. The appeals court ruled, "We do not find that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting Hillard's testimony about the forearm impression and fingertip markings."

The appeal also argued that the trial court failed to instruct the jury on all lesser-included offenses of murder reasonably adduced by the evidence, and that his conviction is based on insufficient evidence.

"After review of the record, we cannot say the trier of fact clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed," the appeals court ruled. "The state presented testimony and evidence from which the jury could have found the essential elements of murder proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

Berry made a second appeal last month that centered around Jeff Braley, the lead detective in the case. Braley is accused of lying on his application for the Hamilton Township Police Department.

The court has not ruled on that appeal yet, and there is no word on when that ruling will come.

Widmer was convicted after three trials. A conviction in the first trial was overturned due to juror misconduct and a second trial ended in a hung jury.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell released the following statement:

"The Warren County Prosecutor's Office is very satisfied with today's decision and we believe the 12th District Court of Appeals, like the trial court, reached the correct result."

Berry maintains Widmer's innocence and said she will take the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

"We're disappointed, but we're more motivated than ever," said Berry.

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