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Weitzel seeks funds for 2nd murder trial

Doctor sends letters to colleagues and sets up Web site

Dr. Robert Weitzel, who faces a new trial in the deaths of five elderly patients, has sent a six-page letter to more than 4,400 doctors in Utah and established a Web site to solicit their support and financial help.

"Basically, I'm letting them know what's going on, asking for their support and any donations to be sent to my legal defense fund," Weitzel said. "I'm describing what happened from my point of view and telling them about a Web site where they can see the medical records that were put into public record at trial."

The trial he refers to is the six-week murder case against him that resulted in a conviction in August. However, 2nd District Judge Thomas L. Kay later ruled that Weitzel was entitled to a new trial because of an error by prosecutors.

Weitzel plans to announce details of the letter and Web site at a news conference at 10 a.m. Monday at the Salt Lake Main Library, 209 E. 500 South.

Kay ruled that the prosecutors failed to disclose information received by a potential witness, University of Utah professor Perry Fine who is an expert on end-of-life care. That failure "contravened manifest constitutional, legal and ethical duties imposed on prosecutors," Kay ruled.

The judge also said that Fine's qualifications, credibility and testimony offered a "sufficiently high" likelihood that the trial might have produced a different verdict.

Fine testified at a January hearing he thought Weitzel's conduct was typical of end-of-life care and did not rise to the level of first-degree murder.

Weitzel said he is determined to clear his name and that charging him again with first-degree murder "is just wrong."

"The medical care (given the patients) was well within the standard," he said.

Weitzel lost his attorney Peter Stirba when Stirba withdrew from the case to attend to his wife, 3rd District Judge Anne Stirba, who is fighting a long-term illness.

Kay gave Weitzel until March 22 to hire another attorney or else the court will appoint one for him. Kay will set the date for a new trial on March 22.

Weitzel's license to practice medicine has been suspended by the Utah Department of Professional Licensing.


E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com