Defense asks for mistrial in case of Ohio doctor accused of multiple murders related to alleged overprescribing of pain medication

Defense attorney Jose Baez argued prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt and the defense doesn’t have to prove anything.

The defendant, William Husel, faces 14 counts of murder related to the allegations he prescribed the opioid fentanyl in doses “designed to hasten the death of the patients that were being treated,” prosecutors said when Husel was indicted in June 2019. He was initially indicted on 25 counts of murder, but in January — about a month before the trial began — 11 of the 25 counts against him were dismissed. Husel has pleaded not guilty.

Husel worked at Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus. He was fired December 5, 2018. According to the indictment, the patient deaths took place between February 2015 and November 2018.

In arguing for a mistrial, Baez said prosecutors asked during Monday’s closing arguments why the defense didn’t put certain witnesses on the stand and why the defense didn’t ask their expert witnesses a particular question. Prosecutors also told the jury that “no one in the world is giving these doses,” referring to the fentanyl at the center of the case, when there was no evidence on that issue, Baez said.

The prosecution said their closing arguments were proper, and Judge Michael Holbrook will rule on the request for a mistrial Tuesday morning before jury deliberations are set to begin.

William Husel sits in court on February 28 during his trial in Columbus, Ohio.

‘It is murder to kill a dying person,’ prosecutors argue

Prosecutors spent more than two hours presenting their closing Monday, arguing, in part, that “it is murder to kill a dying person.”

Assistant Franklin County prosecutor David Zeyen told the jury Husel had the “specific intention” to cause the deaths of all 14 patients.

“You have to get into his mind,” Zeyen said. “You have to figure it out.”

Zeyen told jurors that even if the patients’ underlying medical conditions also caused the deaths, if the fentanyl “hastened the deaths”, Husel is responsible.

Here's what we know about the Ohio doctor accused of overprescribing pain meds

Zeyen lined up a long row of fentanyl bottles for the jury to see as he referenced the testimony of witnesses describing patients’ medical conditions. He said each patient was different but many were given the same amounts of the drugs.

Several patients were brain damaged, Zeyen told the jury, but instead of giving them less medication because they wouldn’t be able to feel the pain, larger doses were ordered by Husel.

Experts for the prosecution testified that no one else in the field of comfort care medicine is giving similar amounts of fentanyl.

“No literature supports this,” Zeyen argued.

Three other ICU physicians at Mt. Carmel West — where Husel practiced — testified they used morphine for pain rather than fentanyl, and the morphine was given in small doses at designated intervals.

Defense rails against prosecutors, police in closing arguments

Baez, the defense attorney, argued prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the doses actually hastened the patients’ deaths or that Husel purposely intended to kill the patients.

He criticized the prosecutors’ case, saying, “Things that were fed to you that were just not true. Completely contradicted by the records. That’s not what this process is for.”

Baez argued to the jury that the police initially didn’t carry out a fair and impartial investigation.

He accused police of relying too heavily on the hospital’s internal investigation and argued prosecutors failed to ask when patients stopped breathing, why they had respiratory depression and then their heart stopped beating.

Ohio doctor indicted on 25 counts of murder related to alleged overprescribing of pain medication

“William Husel is sitting here now because they didn’t do that,” he said.

Husel never tried to hide the amount of fentanyl he was giving patients, Baez argued. “You do something wrong you try to hide it,” he told the jury. “That shows his intent right there.”

Baez also argued both sides agree there are no maximum doses for fentanyl used in comfort care medicine, and went through all 14 patients outlining measures Husel performed to save their lives.

The nurses who worked alongside Husel were the most important witnesses of this trial, he said, adding that they all lost their jobs and most are no longer nurses.

“You would think they would be really angry at William Husel,” but they all spoke extremely highly of him as a physician, Baez said.

“They were there. We were not,” he said.

CNN’s Amir Vera and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: The Bloggers Briefing