After the 14th and final not guilty verdict was read, William Husel and his attorney embraced at the defense table. He was subsequently discharged from the courtroom.
The decision comes just over a week after jurors began deliberating and days after they said they were at an impasse and could not reach a unanimous verdict, leading Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook to instruct them to continue their deliberations.
“If you hasten a person’s death, even if their death is as sure as the sun is going to rise in the morning, if you hasten that along, you have caused their death under the eyes of the law,” Franklin County prosecutor David Zeyen said in closing arguments.
Defense attorney Jose Baez argued prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the doses actually hastened the patients’ deaths or that Husel purposely intended to kill the patients.
The trial began in February, with over 50 witnesses testifying for the prosecution, including doctors, nurses and administrative employees of Mount Carmel Hospital West, where Husel worked as the night ICU physician.
Family members detailed the stories of their loved ones declining quickly once at the hospital, as well as their experiences with Husel and the ICU. Experts also told the court the large fentanyl doses Husel gave to patients caused their deaths and were intended to accelerate the dying process.
Despite the accusations, Husel’s former colleagues testified that he was a wonderful doctor who was hardworking, fought to save people’s lives, was helpful to everyone in the ICU unit and was always there to teach and explain.
Husel’s defense called just one witness, Dr. Joel Zivot, who studied the medical records of the 14 patients and determined they had severe and unrecoverable illnesses. Zivot also testified that recovery to a normal state of health was not possible for the patients, and he determined underlying medical issues caused their deaths.
Husel did not take the stand. His medical license is currently suspended, defense counsel confirmed to CNN.
How we got here
Husel was fired December 5, 2018. That same month, an attorney representing Mount Carmel reached out to the Franklin County prosecutor’s office, launching an investigation into Husel.
During their initial conversations, the attorney said a doctor — later identified as Husel — was “administering doses of fentanyl at a level that they internally believed were inappropriate and not for a legitimate medical purpose,” said Ron O’Brien, the Franklin County prosecutor at the time.
The investigation found the doses, which ranged from 500 to 2,000 micrograms, “were designed to hasten the death of the patients that were being treated,” O’Brien said.
CNN’s Amir Vera and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.
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