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Casey Anthony, Aaron Hernandez lawyer hired by Ohio doctor in opioid murder case

High-profile attorney Jose Baez is part of the new defense team of William Husel, accused of administering fatal doses of fentanyl and killing 25 patients.
Image: Former doctor William Husel pleads not guilty to murder charges in Franklin County Court in Ohio on June 5, 2019.
William Husel pleads not guilty to murder charges in Franklin County Court in Ohio on June 5, 2019.Kantele Franko / AP file

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio doctor charged with 25 counts of murder is now scheduled for trial next June and has two new lawyers, including one known for successfully defending high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony and Aaron Hernandez.

That lawyer, Florida-based Jose Baez, called the charges against William Husel "somewhat baffling" but wouldn't comment on defense strategy Wednesday after a hearing, where some court dates were reset and Baez and Columbus lawyer Diane Menashe were accepted as the new defense team.

Husel didn't speak during the hearing.

The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System found that Husel ordered excessive painkillers for about three dozen hospital patients who died over the past several years.

When Husel pleaded not guilty, a different lawyer representing him at that point said the 43-year-old doctor was providing comfort care for dying patients, not trying to kill them. Baez declined to comment on that Wednesday.

Husel was charged only in cases involving 500 to 2,000 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Prosecutors said those amounts point to his intent because they were so much larger than typical doses.

But people who know Husel describe him as a sincere man who became a doctor because he wanted to help people, Baez said.

Baez said he was persuaded by "the man looking me in the eye and telling me he's absolutely innocent."

It's one of the biggest cases of its kind against an American health care professional. Because of the extensive publicity it has drawn, Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook said the court will start with a larger-than-usual pool of jurors — potentially 1,000 people.

Holbrook said the trial might take a couple of months.

Husel is the only person criminally charged in the matter. Authorities aren't prosecuting nurses and pharmacists who administered and approved the medications, though some faced other ramifications.

In addition to firing Husel, Mount Carmel fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers after an internal review. Dozens have been reported to their respective professional boards for review and potential disciplinary action.

Mount Carmel has publicly apologized for what happened, tightened its drug policies and access, and changed its leadership. It also has reached settlements totaling $13.5 million in some of the related wrongful-death lawsuits filed by the deceased patients' families.