June trial date set for ex-Mount Carmel doctor Husel on 25 murder charges

Former Mount Carmel Doctor William Husel in court on August 28, 2019 (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – Flanked by a new legal defense team and his wife, Dr. William Husel remained silent as he walked into a Franklin County courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

He did not answer when asked by a reporter if he intentionally killed his patients or believed that it was sound medicine.

Husel has pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of murder – accused by prosecutors of giving near-death patients under his care potentially fatal doses of fentanyl while working as a critical care intensivist at Mount Carmel Health System.

Husel’s new attorney, Jose Baez, was not silent about his client or the charges against him.

“I am not going to comment on the evidence or what potential defenses will be. But I can tell you that he is absolutely 100 percent innocent. The charges are somewhat baffling and we will deal with it in the courtroom,” Baez told reporters Wednesday outside the courtroom. “Dr. Husel reached out to me and after sitting and meeting with him and his family - who are lovely people – I agreed to take the case and I’m here.”

When asked what specifically spurred him to take the case hundreds of miles away from his Florida law office, Baez said: “The man looking me in the eye and telling me he is absolutely innocent and I believe him. “

Baez gained national attention for his successful defense of Florida mother Casey Anthony that led to an acquittal on a murder charge that alleged she killed her own child. He also represented the late NFL star Aaron Hernandez in his legal case.

Baez, along with Columbus criminal defense attorney Diane Menashe – known for defending several high-profile criminal defendants – will now make up Husel’s new criminal defense team. That means Cleveland attorney, Richard Blake, is out.

Judge Michael Holbrook approved the change Wednesday and set a trial date for June 1. Holbrook said that he would like to summons 1,000 potential jurors for the trial because of the media attention the case has already received.

To date, Mount Carmel has identified 35 near-death patients who the hospital says either received excessive of potentially fatal doses of pain medication while under Husel’s care. The hospital has already paid out $13 million to the families of the patients, 10 Investigates reported earlier this week. That calculation was based on probate court records and interviews with attorneys representing the families.

During a June news conference, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said that his office has found no medical expert who says that there is any medical reason to give someone 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more. Prosecutors chose to focus the scope of their criminal trial on those patients who received 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more – that means other patients who received lesser doses or drugs other than fentanyl like dilaudid, were not included in the criminal proceedings.

When 10 Investigates asked Baez if he had a response to the prosecution’s contention that there is no medical justification to giving someone 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more, Baez said: “Last I checked they are prosecutors not doctors – so we’ll take it from there.”

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