FARMINGTON — Attorneys for psychiatrist Robert Weitzel want 2nd District Judge Thomas Kay to set aside Weitzel's convictions for the deaths of five former patients, arguing a "reasonable" jury could not find sufficient evidence to justify guilty verdicts.
In a motion filed Monday, defense attorney Peter Stirba wrote the evidence presented during Weitzel's five-week jury trial was insufficient to warrant the jury's two manslaughter and three negligent homicide verdicts.
Weitzel, 44, was convicted of second-degree felony manslaughter for the deaths of Mary Crane and Judith Larsen; the jury found him guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide for the deaths of Ennis Alldredge, Ellen Anderson, and Lydia Smith. All died while under Weitzel's care in December 1995 and January 1996 at the Davis Hospital and Medical Center's geriatric-psychiatric unit.
The motion also argues the jury disregarded the court's instructions not to compromise on a verdict in order to avoid a hung jury.
"While the jury, in its mad dash and rush to get home, may ignore critical evidence in this case, the very purpose of this motion is for the court to correct the results of an unjust verdict," Stirba wrote.
"All one has to do is to read some of the comments attributed to the jurors in the press to find substantiation for the fact that Dr. Weitzel was convicted for all of the wrong reasons and for misconduct which was not criminal in nature," the motion states.
Following the announcement of the verdict, one juror commented to the news media he had "compromised" on the verdict, and that the panel "met in the middle" to render its decision. Another said she believed Weitzel was overwhelmed by his patient load and "made a lot of bad decisions," but said she did not think he had a motive to kill the five patients.
Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson declined to comment on the specifics of the motion until the state files its response next week.
"But, I would say that we obviously disagree" with Stirba's arguments, Wilson said. "I think there was more than ample evidence for the jury to consider and that a reasonable person could have reached that same verdict."
Wilson said he was satisfied with the jury's decision and questioned Stirba's allegation that jurors acted inappropriately during their deliberation.
"I don't think that argument holds a lot of weight," Wilson said.
Kay is expected to hear argument on the motion Sept. 5. His options include upholding the jury's verdict, ordering a new trial or setting aside the verdict.
Weitzel's sentencing, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed until Sept. 8.