Federal judge punts review of Ryan Widmer conviction to another judge

Ryan Widmer
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Ryan Widmer

The federal judge reviewing the conviction of killer Ryan Widmer has turned the case over to a magistrate judge, saying he “considered the objections and believes they will be more appropriately resolved after further analysis by the magistrate judge.”

FIRST REPORT: Widmer’s attorney objects to “frivolous” ruling

After three trials in Warren County and numerous appeals, including one to the United States Supreme Court, Widmer, 36, remains behind bars on a 15 years to life sentence. His first hearing for parole is scheduled for July 2025.

He was convicted of drowning his wife, Sarah, in the bathtub of their Warren County home in August 2008.

MORE: Jurors talk about first Widmer trial

Dan Tierney with the Ohio attorney general’s office — the office that handles appeals such as this — said this recent order by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black is common.

In federal courts, magistrate judges are appointed to assist district court judges.

Main arguments by Widmer’s appeals attorney have included:

  • the home's bathtub was illegally seized
  • testimony regarding "prints" on the bathtub was based on "junk science"
  • Widmer should have been allowed to test Sarah's DNA for a rare genetic disorder
  • juries should have been told about lead detective Jeff Braley's alleged misrepresentations of his qualifications

Maura O’Neill Jaite with Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office has asked the court to overrule Widmer’s objections, adopt Merz’s recommendations, deny Widmers right to appeal, declare that an appeal would be frivolous and deny him “in forma pauperis” status, which means he can’t pay for an attorney.

“Widmer has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right or that the issues he presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed,” she wrote. “Similarly, the magistrate judge’s determination that “any appeal would be objectively frivolous and therefore [Widmer] should not be permitted to proceed in forma pauperis” is also correct.”

Widmer’s attorney Michele Berry-Godsey said she believes it is significant Black sent the objections back to Merz.

“The AG’s filing is non-responsive to Widmer’s objections and full of empty criticisms. It’s obvious that Widmer’s objections pinpoint specific problems with the magistrate’s report and recommendations,” said. “All anyone has to do is read the objections to see this. And based on Widmer’s objections, the district judge believed red flags were present in the report and recommendations, or he wouldn’t have issued a recommittal order.”

RELATED: Pig brains used in Widmer trial

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