One of the jurors who acquitted a doctor of murdering 14 patients with doses of fentanyl and other drugs explained on Tuesday why he reached a not guilty verdict. Simply put, the juror believed prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, failed to meet their burden of proof.
“It wasn’t just one piece of evidence,” juror Damon Massey told Law&Crime Network host Linda Kenney Baden about the murder trial of Dr. William Husel. “It actually was, they did not prove their case. They did not prove that his intention was to murder these patients. That was the biggest thing. Where was the intent by him?”
Husel was accused of overproviding powerful, potent drugs in “massive doses” to patients at the intensive care unit at the Mount Carmel West hospital.
Prosecutors argued that Husel set out to kill James Allen, 80, Troy Allison, 44, Bonnie Austin, 64, Joanne S. Bellisari, 69, Francis Burke, 73, Sandra Castle, 80, Ryan Hayes, 39, Jeremia “Sue” Hodge, 57, Brandy McDonald, 37, Danny Mollette, 74, Melissa Penix, 82, Beverlee Ann Schirtzinger, 63, James “Nick” Timmons, 39, and Rebecca Walls, 75.
Attorney Jose Baez, who is one of Husel’s defense lawyers, has asserted his client was only alleviating the patients’ pain as they were dying. He denied that the doctor gave anyone an overdose.
Baden, who has worked with Baez in the past and acknowledged being consulted for the Husel case before the pandemic, asked the juror if the lack of standards of fentanyl administration was important to evaluate intent.
“Actually, it’s funny you asked that because it was,” Massey said.
“The number one thing was, how can we say that he gave lethal doses when there’s not even a ceiling on the drug?” he said. “At that point, you are saying that just because it was unusual, that it was murder.”
Massey told Baden he was one of the jurors hanging up deliberations at one point. He said he wanted to take a closer look on the cases that were a little different from the others in order to better evaluate intent, but he ultimately decided that the prosecution could not show that intent.
“If I was a doctor, I probably would have administered another dosage myself,” citing one case about a female patient who had dementia.
Baez and co-counsel Diane Menashe joined Massey and Baden partway during the interview through video conference. Baez credited jurors with really going through the documents, including a living will that the defense did not emphasize at trial but proved key for the verdict.
“I think it’s a real reminder to all defense attorneys to always encourage your jurors to take the exhibits back into the deliberation room and work through the exhibit,” Menashe said. “Because Jose’s right. That’s not something we had focused on, and yet the jurors found it, they saw it, they talked about it, and it was really a pivotal moment.”
Baden asked Massey about the state’s best evidence. He mentioned testimony from the prosecution’s expert witness Dr. Wes Ely, who testified that he would have never given the dosages that Husel did.
“I believe that’s where, for me, I kind of started saying, ‘There’s a little something here,'” Massey said. On considering the evidence some more, however, he decided there was not enough to show intent for murder.
Massey also pointed to Trinity Health Corporation, the hospital’s parent company. He suggested that they were trying to put the blame on the defendant, and that they should have noted the amount of fentanyl orders going out.
“They have a big blame in this,” he said.
Husel has sued the hospital and Trinity Heath, arguing he was following policy and that all the patients died from natural causes after going off life support. Mount Carmel Health System said his claims were “unfounded,” according to CNN in 2020.
[Screenshots via Law&Crime Network]
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