LEBANON, Ohio - Will social networking get Ryan Widmer a fourth trial? A Warren County judge will decide just that.
The defense attorney Jay Clark stood before the judge and laid out problems with the jury from the third trial, asking for a new trial for his defendant.
“Ryan has not gotten a fair trial. The jury was not fair and impartial.”
The jam-packed courtroom was full of loud chatter Wednesday afternoon as they sat, awaiting a hearing that could grant Ryan Widmer a new trial.
Ryan’s family sat in the front row, including his father Gary Widmer. However, Ryan, 30, was not present at the hearing.
The defense filed a motion for a new trial and since then they have learned that Facebook may be has been a platform for possible juror misconduct. That supplement was filed Tuesday and included five exhibits including three regarding Facebook issues in correlation to juror Dreama Epperson.
Once Judge Neal Bronson took his seat at the bench, Jay Clark begins by approaching the podium to explain their motion for a new trial to the judge, including their exhibits.
Epperson, Clark explained to the judge, was exposed to a Facebook page that her sister “liked” called “Ryan Widmer’s guilty and he should be” on Feb. 4, which was during the trial’s proceedings. The jury ultimately found Widmer guilty on Feb. 16.
Clark explained for the judge how Facebook works in a nutshell. Once you open your profile, he said to the judge, your newsfeed on the screen shows what friends do on their page, like “liking” another page. That is where Epperson would have seen her sister’s “like” of the Facebook page “Ryan Widmer’s guilty and he should be”, he said. He read line by line what was posted on her Facebook page.
“Her exposure to it is without question.” And this type of exposure violates and indicates juror misconduct, he said to the judge.
The State objected to the Facebook information, as Clark read line by line to the judge. “While this is fascinating, this is not evidence,” said Assistant Prosecutor John Arnold.
Clark continued, to the judge, Epperson also had a bathtub video on her Facebook. To the defense, this seemed like evidence of jury misconduct.
“When you see smoke there is probably something there.”
However, the paperwork filed by prosecutors on Wednesday, just prior to the hearing, included an affidavit from one of the jurors who defense attorneys suggested didn't follow the jury instructions based on alleged Facebook activity and an alleged conversation during the trial.
In the affidavit juror Epperson said, "I understood the Court's instruction that we should not communicate with anyone about the case, by using social media, the Internet or any tools of communication to discuss or research anything about the case or Ryan Widmer…"
The Epperson continued in the document, "While serving as a juror, I did not discuss the merits or facts of the case before or during the trial with anybody. I followed the Court's instructions and did not communicate any information about the case or do any research. I avoided reading any information about the case from any source, including social media, electronic communications, the Internet or any other media…. To my knowledge and understanding, I complied with Judge Bronson's instructions and did not form or express any opinions about the case, until the jury began deliberations."
Mark Krumbein, a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney, said that today’s hearing did not turn out in the defense’s favor.
"The odds are really against the defense."
Krumbein said Facebook and other sites are something that may be out of the judge’s control during a trial.
"These social networking systems are moving so rapidly it's hard for judges to keep a lid on it."
The judge ended the hearing by saying that he would take all information under advisement for his decision.
Widmer was convicted last month of murdering his wife of four months, Sarah, in their Hamilton Township home in August 2008. The guilty verdict came in his third trial.
The first guilty verdict was thrown out because of jury misconduct. The second jury was hung.
Widmer is currently serving a 15 years to life sentence.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.