Attorney Jose Baez spoke during opening statements, offering the first look at the defense’s strategy as the trial began in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
“This case, ladies and gentlemen, is about, 100%, comfort care,” Baez told jurors, later adding, “There is no such thing as a medical murder case. And that this is not a murder case, and it’s far from it. William Husel was exercising compassion to his patients and tried to free them of pain and let their last moments on Earth be ones of peace.”
Baez spoke after Assistant Prosecutor Janet Grubb detailed in a much shorter opening statement how patients died shortly after Husel, 46, prescribed fentanyl to them while working as an ICU physician at the former Mount Carmel West hospital.
“They went to the hospital for help,” Grubb said. “Several of them were not sick enough that they were destined to die during their hospitalization. They all had one thing in common. William Husel was the nighttime ICU physician who ordered lethal levels of drugs or a combination of drugs with a removal from a ventilator.”
The cases date to 2015, with Husel being pulled from patient care in late 2018 and fired shortly after. He was indicted in 2019 and pleaded not guilty.
In laying out his defense, Baez also detailed how nurses, pharmacists and others at Mount Carmel knew of Husel’s actions and of potential issues with policies and procedures at the hospital system.
Before jurors were brought in, the sides revealed they had been working on a plea deal where the murder charges would have been reduced to negligent homicide. Baez called the deal reasonable but said Husel maintained his innocence.
During the afternoon session, testifying was William Gillette, a Columbus police homicide detective who was part of the team investigating the deaths. He was on the stand when court was completed for the day, and cross-examination of Gillette is expected to resume Tuesday.
When asked for comment Tuesday, Mount Carmel issued the following statement:
Mount Carmel has cared for the Central Ohio community for many years. What happened was tragic, and we’ve made a number of changes designed to prevent this from ever happening again in our health system. This situation does not reflect who we are as an organization or who our employees and physicians are.Mount Carmel Health
Here are some of the individuals who may appear during the proceedings:
- Michael Holbrook
- Dr. William Husel
- Jose Baez
- Jaime Lapidus
- Diane Menashe
- Corinne Buker
- Paula Sawyers
- Taylor Mick
- David Zeyen
- Janet Grubb
- Powell Miller