COLUMBUS, Ohio — On the same day a jury acquitted former Mount Carmel doctor William Husel on 14 charges of murder, civil attorneys for Husel filed their own response in one of the pending wrongful death lawsuits against Husel and Mount Carmel Health System.
Husel’s civil attorneys are asking a judge to issue recognize Husel’s statutory immunity and summary judgment in their favor in the wrongful death lawsuit involving patient Melissa Penix.
Penix was one of the 14 patients named in the indictment against Husel, which alleged his dosing orders for fentanyl were excessive and hastened the deaths of his patients. Prosecutors called two medical experts who testified that Husel’s dosages of fentanyl and other medications hastened the deaths of his patients.
After reaching an impasse on Monday, jurors continued to deliberate and acquitted Husel of all charges.
In his filing, civil attorney Greg Foliano wrote: “On April 20, 2022, Franklin County county criminal jury found Dr. Husel did not administer Fentanyl and Versed with the intent to kill his patients.”
He later added: “Now, the criminal court verdict provides the evidence demonstrating that Dr. Husel was providing comfort care in good faith within the scope of his authority, as determined by the jury.”
Foliano did not respond to a call or email from 10 Investigates seeking comment Thursday.
Civil attorneys representing the patients’ families still have pending wrongful death lawsuits against Husel and Mount Carmel – alleging that Husel’s drug orders were inappropriate and that the hospital was negligent in creating an environment that allowed for easy access to powerful painkillers.
Attorney Gerry Leeseberg told reporters Wednesday: “We are not alleging that Dr. Husel murdered patients nor are we obligated to prove Dr. Husel murdered patients our obligation in the civil case is to prove that Dr. Husel acted inappropriately and didn't comply with acceptable standards of medical practice.”
Criminal defense attorney Diane Menashe told reporters Wednesday this should never have been a criminal case.
“This case never did belong here. It is a civil case, which is a different burden of proof different measures that they can discuss over there,” Menashe said. “For me, this was about intent. Did William Husel ever intend to kill any of his patients? Not just these 14 but anyone that he ever treated. And I believe the jury clearly spoke to that and so did the evidence that he did all these life-saving measures… it was CPR or intubating patients. Certainly, his last effort was never to kill or hasten anyone’s death. His intent was to provide comfort care.”
Affidavit for disqualification unsealed
A now-moot motion filed by defense attorney Jose Baez to disqualify Judge Michael Holbrook from presiding over the criminal trial of Dr. Husel was unsealed Thursday and obtained by 10 Investigates.
The filing details the defense team’s allegation that Holbrook had bias and should be removed from presiding over the trial.
The defense team took issue with comments Holbrook made to reporters throughout the trial and then sought to disqualify him, in part, for comments the judge made during a hearing where attorneys and the judge worked through the language that was to be included in the jury instructions.
According to the affidavit, the defense didn’t want Husel to be referred to as “the defendant” in the jury instruction.
Holbrook admitted that during an in-chambers meeting, he sarcastically suggested Husel be referred to as “the killer, Dr. Husel.”
According to a transcript of the event, Holbrook then said: “Sorry, that’s bad humor.”
When defense attorney Diane Menashe said: “I’m trying to absorb the court’s comment.”
Judge Holbrook then replied: “That was bad humor on my part because I’m tired. I’m sorry for that rude comment. It would never have come to my mouth.”
The Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor ruled on April 6 that Holbrook need not be removed, that the defense failed to establish any basis for ordering disqualification and that Holbrook had apologized, noting it was a sarcastic comment that was insensitive, but that the judge’s response to the allegation shows that “he is neither hostile toward nor biased against the defendant.”
Holbrook remained on the case. The affidavit for disqualification was unsealed following Wednesday’s verdict.
Husel medical board hearing
The Ohio medical board suspended Dr. William Husel’s medical license be suspended in early 2019 following his firing from Mount Carmel Health Systems.
Husel, who has allowed his medical license to expire, will be able to defend himself before the board at hearings that are slated for this summer and beyond.