200 po­ten­tial Wid­mer ju­rors get ques­tion­naire

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL - By Denise G. Cal­la­han Staff Writer

LE­BANON — Two hun­dred War­ren County res­i­dents are banned from dis­cussing the Ryan Wid­mer bath­tub murder case with any­one.

With a third trial loom­ing for the bath­tub drown­ing case in less than a month, a 103-ques­tion sur­vey was mailed to po­ten­tial ju­rors last week. The ques­tion­naire is meant to help the pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense seat an im­par­tial jury.

One glar­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween this sur­vey and the one sent out to po­ten­tial ju­rors last spring is in bold letters. “You are no longer per­mit­ted to read about, re­search, watch news ac­counts of, or dis­cuss the case with any other per­son,” the mis­sive reads.

Com­mon Pleas Judge Neal Bron­son ex­tended his gag or­der last month to in­clude po­ten­tial ju­rors. Twice as many reg­is­tered vot­ers have been sum­moned for the third trial set for Jan. 18.

Wid­mer, 30, is ac­cused of drown­ing his wife, Sarah, in the bath­tub of their Hamil­ton Twp. home in Au­gust 2008. First re­spon­ders be­came sus­pi­cious when they found a vir­tu­ally dry drown­ing scene when they ar­rived min­utes af­ter Wid­mer di­aled 911.

Dur­ing the first trial in the spring of 2009, Wid­mer was found guilty. Bron­son or­dered a new trial af­ter sev­eral ju­rors ad­mit­ted they con­ducted dry­ing ex­per­i­ments at home. A sec­ond jury dead­locked this June af­ter a 16-day trial.

Un­like the pre­vi­ous Q&A, Wid­mer and the case are specif­i­cally ad­dressed in the ques­tion­naire. In the pre­vi­ous ques­tion­naire, ju­rors weren’t told but they likely had an inkling be­cause it asked about their knowl­edge of drown­ing and cer­tain med­i­cal is­sues like seizures and car­diac events.

There are 10 ques­tions de­signed to gauge the po­ten­tial ju­ror’s knowl­edge of the case and whether or not they have “formed an opin­ion of Ryan Wid­mer’s in­no­cence or guilt or the mer­its of the case.”

Uni­ver­sity of Day­ton Pro­fes­sor Thad­deus Hoffmeis­ter, a jury ex­pert, said he be­lieves any ju­ror who an­swers those ques­tions in the af­fir­ma­tive should be ques­tioned in­di­vid­u­ally dur­ing jury se­lec­tion. He said it’s hu­man na­ture to tell some­one, es­pe­cially an author­ity fig­ure like a judge, what you think he wants to hear, namely that a per­son can set aside per­sonal feel­ings or be­liefs.

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