COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio court shouldn't dismiss the 25-count murder indictment for a hospital doctor accused of ordering excessive painkillers for patients who then died, the prosecutor argued in a new court filing.
William Husel, who worked in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System, has pleaded not guilty and maintains he was providing comfort care to dying patients. He was charged only in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of fentanyl — dosages big enough that prosecutors say they indicate an intent to end lives.
Husel's lawyers sought to get the indictment dismissed, arguing that Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien wrongly influenced the grand jury and prejudiced Husel by excluding information about another patient who received even larger doses and survived for days afterward. The defense argues that patient's records would contradict the prosecution's case, but O'Brien says those records don't contain exculpatory evidence.
Prosecutors called the defense request meritless in a court filing on Tuesday, and said the judge shouldn't even have an evidentiary hearing on the matter as scheduled later this month. Husel's challenge asks the court to prematurely and impermissibly “assess the legal sufficiency of the State's evidence” in proving the charges, and that's to be determined at trial, not beforehand, they wrote.
They also said Husel's request to see transcripts of the grand jury proceedings, which are usually secret, asks the court “to presume he was wrongfully indicted" but doesn't meet the bar of showing he'd be deprived of a fair trial if he is denied the transcripts.
The case against Husel, 44, is among the biggest of its kind ever brought against an American health care professional. Mount Carmel’s review concluded he ordered excessive painkillers for about three dozen patients who died over several years.
His colleagues who administered the medication weren’t criminally charged, but the hospital system said it fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers, and it referred various employees to their respective state boards for possible disciplinary action.
Mount Carmel has reached related settlements totaling more than $16.7 million, and lawsuits by more patients' families are still pending.