COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Mount Carmel physician Dr. William Husel’s legal team argued in court Wednesday that the 25 murder charges filed against him should be tossed out.
And they raised accusations of prosecutorial misconduct as a basis for their argument – alleging that former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s office misled the grand jury and withheld evidence about a patient who received a larger dose of fentanyl than the other patients tied to the criminal case.
Husel is accused of ordering excessive or potentially fatal doses of fentanyl to be given to patients under his care.
The central question is whether the drugs accelerated their deaths. Prosecutors have argued they did.
Husel’s legal defense team claims the prosecutors’ case is based on flawed science and an inappropriate assertion that 500 micrograms of fentanyl was a potentially lethal dose.
Prosecutors did choose to focus their criminal case around those who received 500 micrograms or more. Husel’s legal defense team attacked that foundation Wednesday – claiming that a patient whose initials are “T.Y.” received 2,500 micrograms of fentanyl but survived for another 10 days before dying in early December of 2014.
The defense also called another physician, Dr. Timothy Ihrig, to testify who said that a dose of 500 micrograms was not uniformly lethal.
The defense team also harped on a statement that former prosecutor O’Brien made to reporters in June of 2019, the same day Husel was indicted on murder charges.
“I have found no one, nowhere that says 500 micrograms of fentanyl is appropriate dose of fentanyl for treatment of someone being taken off a ventilator…” O’Brien told reporters at the time.
He did not respond to messages sent by 10 Investigates Wednesday seeking comment.
Current prosecutors for Franklin County also declined to speak to reporters after the Wednesday hearing, but in court, they claimed Husel’s defense team had not proven prosecutorial misconduct and that its motion should be tossed. Prosecutors also noted several objections to defense arguments, claiming they weren’t relevant to the motion before the court.
In October of last year, 10 Investigates did ask O’Brien if his office screwed up?
His response – referring to Baez -- was this:
“What we're seeing here today frankly is a celebrity lawyer from Miami who practices law… We handle our cases professionally, ethically and legally in this county,” O’Brien said.
During Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors also urged the judge to deny the defense motion and set this case for trial, which is slated for February.
Husel has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
His attorney, Jose Baez, spoke to reporters after the Wednesday hearing where he re-iterated that the prosecutors’ case was problematic adding “we shouldn’t be here.”
“Dr. Husel practiced medicine with compassion and care. That was hit intent. And under the law – Ohio law – is that even if that killed them, so long as his intention was medically-based, then it’s not murder,” Baez said. “It’s to treat someone. Taking them off life-support is what ultimately killed them.”
Prosecutors argue the doses were excessive and hastened or shortened the life of his patients.
Judge Holbrook said he expects to rule on the defense motion by as early as Friday.