COLUMBUS, Ohio — Attorneys representing former Mount Carmel physician Dr. William Husel had hoped to argue their latest motion Wednesday – that the 25 murder charges filed against Husel should be dismissed.
But Judge Michael Holbrook wouldn’t allow it.
Prosecutors have 14 days to respond to the defense team’s motion, which argues that prosecutors withheld evidence from grand jurors – including evidence that more than a dozen patients received dosages of 500 micrograms or more and lived for several days before dying – including one patient, whose initials are “TY,” who received 2,500 micrograms of fentanyl and lived for 10 days before dying in the hospital’s palliative care unit.
Husel is accused of ordering potentially lethal doses of fentanyl to 25 patients under his care between 2014 and 2018.
Mount Carmel Health System fired Husel in December 2018 after an internal review and began calling patients’ families later that month – telling them that their loved ones may have received too much pain medication.
Wrongful death lawsuits followed.
As of Oct. 21, Mount Carmel Health System has paid out nearly $17 million to patients’ families to settle legal claims. All told, 35 patients were identified by the hospital as having received “excessive” or “potentially fatal” doses of fentanyl.
Prosecutors chose to focus their criminal case on 25 patients who received 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more.
Dr. Husel's attorney, Jose Baez, told reporters: “An innocent man stands beside me who all he did was care for his patients. He tried to make their last moments on earth decent ones with dignity – and now we stands accused of 25 counts of murder.
“And then to come back and tell the public that 500 is a lethal dose is unconscionable. And then on top of that to file criminal charges – to run his name through the mud. He’ll never have his life back. Never. Even if he were to walk out free today. He will never have his life back. He will never live down the whispers and the pointing that goes on in this community because of damage that’s been done,” Baez told reporters who gathered outside Holbrook’s courtroom Wednesday.
Baez later called the criminal case against Husel a “disgrace” and “outrageous” and took aim at Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who told Holbrook Wednesday they were not prepared to argue the motion.
“I don’t know how that man stands in here and says he hasn’t read our motion,” Baez said. “He is the lead trial lawyer in the biggest case of his career. An elected official that the people of this community have entrusted with their safety – to sit there and tell you that he hasn’t even read our motion. Are you kidding me? I had to sit there and pinch myself and wonder ‘what world I am in?’”
Baez went on to state: “This is a case specifically of intent and the only evidence used as intent is the dosage amounts. Patient T.Y. – who we laid out in our motion - blows their entire case out of the water. Completely.”
When asked whether his office erred in this case by not presenting all materials or patient records to the grand jury, O’Brien said: “No. What we’re seeing here today frankly is a celebrity lawyer from Miami who practices law. We handle our cases professionally, ethically and legally. I don’t know what they do in Miami – this is a poor reflection on lawyers in Miami in particular, Mr. Baez. It sounds to me like he is defending a case that his client is not charged with.”
A hearing date for the criminal case against Husel was set for Nov. 23. Husel has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial date was rescheduled until May of 2021 though Holbrook discussed with attorneys during Wednesday’s hearing if they had considered pushing it back again given that coronavirus restrictions and concerns about COVID-19 may still be in place next spring.