COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Former physician William Husel has been found not guilty of 14 counts of murder.
Judge Michael Holbrook read the verdict Wednesday morning in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Husel, 46, wiped away tears as the verdict was read.
After deliberating for five days, a Franklin County jury sided with the defense that Husel, as a nighttime ICU physician, did not commit murder by ordering lethal amounts of fentanyl and other drugs while removing patients from ventilators at the former Mount Carmel West hospital from 2015 to ’18.
Opening statements took place on Feb. 22. The prosecution called 53 witnesses, and the defense only one, who discussed comfort care.
Watch: Reading of the verdict
Columbus attorney Diane Menashe, also part of Husel’s team, said the case belonged in civil court and not criminal court. In meeting with jurors after, she said they told her that a lack of intent was what tipped the verdict in Husel’s favor.
“What an amazing group of individuals; the time and attention and effort they took to this case. It’s incredible, and the case deserved that,” she said. “What an awesome testament to our criminal justice system that it worked.”
Watch: Husel attorney Diane Menashe
Menashe sat with Husel at the defense table while Baez, who had returned to Florida, joined the proceedings via video conference.
“I was very nervous,” Menashe said. “[Husel] turned to me and said how much he’s grateful for me and for Jose, and that he wouldn’t have had a different team by his side. Most individuals that we represent in this work aren’t always appreciative because of a number of circumstances. And every day William has led the day by saying how much he appreciates us.”
Husel sat with his wife in the courtroom for over an hour after the verdict and did not attend any of the news conferences that his attorneys had. Menashe said Husel’s plans today included church, and she would not speculate on whether he would attempt to get his medical license back.
“I hope that right now William is starting to get his life back,” she said. “Every day during these deliberations, he’s had to say goodbye to his daughters because, of course, we had to advise him if it was a guilty verdict, he’d likely be taken in custody. The fact that he’s had to do that all of these days, and tonight he can go home and tomorrow wakes up, and there is no goodbye, it’s an incredible thing.”
Baez revealed that he filed the affidavit to have Holbrook removed from the case and that it has been unsealed with the trial’s conclusion. He said it was mostly related to meetings off the record.
Watch: Husel attorney Jose Baez
Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack released a brief statement saying he “accepted the jury verdict.” And Gerry Leeseberg, an attorney representing victim families in separate civil cases, said the verdict should not be taken as a sign that Husel acted appropriately.
“You don’t get to do what you want to do as a doctor in disregard for whatever accepted standards for medical practice are,” Leeseberg said.
Watch: Attorneys for patient families
Mount Carmel, which fired Husel in late 2018, extended sympathies to the victims’ families in a statement and emphasized the steps it has taken since.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the patients’ families,” the statement read. “It’s never been our role to determine whether the defendant’s actions in these cases were criminal. Our role has always been to live up to our core values, beliefs and mission as a healthcare provider. That’s why we took action regarding our concerns with the doses in these cases and shared the information we had with local authorities and impacted families.”
Husel was facing the possibility of life in prison. Per jury instructions, jurors were allowed to consider the lesser offense of attempted murder for each of the counts listed below.
|Murder of Joanne S. Bellisari||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Ryan Hayes||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Beverlee Ann Schirtzinger||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Danny Mollette||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Brandy McDonald||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Francis Burke||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Jeremia “Sue” Hodge||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of James Allen||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Troy Allison||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Bonnie Austin||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of James Nikolas Timmons||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Sandra Castle||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Rebecca Walls||NOT GUILTY|
|Murder of Melissa Penix||NOT GUILTY|
The dozens of witnesses called by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office ranged from former Mount Carmel executives, nurses, and pharmacists to victims’ family members, Columbus police detectives and expert physicians.
The defense called just one expert witness: Dr. Joel Zivot, a physician from Emory University.
CLICK HERE for a detailed recap and summary of every day of testimony from the six-week trial.
- 2015-2018: Patients in Husel’s care die after medical procedures in which he ordered high amounts of painkillers
- December 5, 2018: Mount Carmel fires Husel, notifies Franklin County prosecutor and State Medical Board of Ohio of his actions
- January 14, 2019: Allegations against Husel become public as Mount Carmel reveals the deaths of dozens of patients who received potentially fatal doses of pain medication
- January 25, 2019: State Medical Board of Ohio suspends Husel’s medical license
- June 5, 2019: Husel turns himself in to police, charged with 25 counts of murder
- June 7, 2019: Husel posts bond, released from jail
- July 11, 2019: Mount Carmel CEO resigns; 23 Mount Carmel employees fired in connection to Husel case
- August 7, 2019: Husel hires Jose Baez as defense attorney
- December 26, 2019: Husel files defamation lawsuit against Mount Carmel Health
- January 20, 2022: 11 of the 25 murder charges against Husel dropped
- February 14, 2022: Jury selection begins
- February 16, 2022: 12 jurors and six alternates selected
- February 22, 2022: Prosecution and defense give opening statements; prosecution begins nearly six-week process of calling witnesses
- March 29, 2022: Prosecution rests case after calling 53 witnesses
- March 30, 2022: Defense calls first and only witness
- March 31, 2022: Defense rests case
- April 12, 2022: Jury begins deliberations
- April 20, 2022: Husel found not guilty on all charges