SALT LAKE CITY — Two jurors in the trial of a Utah doctor accused of killing his ex-wife said Friday the panel made quick work of a key question in the case: whether the woman's death was a murder at all.
Foreman Cameron Sharp said he and other jurors were swayed by the largely circumstantial case and quickly dismissed the defense theory that John Brickman Wall's ex-wife killed herself.
Some of the most convincing elements were a blood-spatter expert's testimony and the Salt Lake City pediatrician's inability to account for his whereabouts the night of Uta von Schwedler's death, Sharp said.
"It was easy for me to come to the conclusion it was a homicide based on the evidence," Sharp, a 38-year-old real estate investor, told The Associated Press.
Wall was convicted of murder Thursday after prosecutors argued he dosed von Schwedler, 49, with the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and drowned her in her bathtub in 2011 during a bitter custody dispute.
Whether the cancer researcher's death was even a murder was a central question during the monthlong trial.
The case puzzled a medical examiner who couldn't explain how the Xanax entered her system but found wounds on her body that looked like someone cut her.
The death initially was treated as a suicide, but von Schwedler's family and friends called for more investigation. Wall, 51, was charged more than a year later.
Defense attorneys argued the prosecution's theory was far-fetched, and said the scene at von Schwedler's house looked more like a troubled woman who took her own life.
But Sharp said he was swayed by the testimony of a blood spatter expert who examined the home and determined bloodstains on von Schwedler's comforter were evidence of a struggle.
A series of witnesses also testified that von Schwedler wasn't depressed, didn't have a Xanax prescription, and recently made a discovery at her lab that could have led to new treatments for childhood leukemia.
After agreeing early on that the death wasn't a suicide, the jury of five men and three women focused on whether there was enough evidence to convict Wall, Sharp said.
That was more difficult, and took the better part of the seven-hour deliberation.
Juror Kevin Hales, a 21-year-old Brigham Young University student, said the hardest part was placing Wall at the scene the night of von Schwedler's death. Male DNA found under one of her fingernails couldn't be definitively matched to Wall, but investigators could exclude other potential suspects, something Hales found convincing.
Also a factor for Hales was testimony from the former couple's oldest son, 21-year-old Pelle Wall, who said publicly during the long investigation that he suspected his father in his mother's death. Emails from father to son telling him to return his key and cutting off his insurance struck Hales as cold.
"He just pretty much kicked him out of his life," Hales said.
For Sharp, Wall's inability to say exactly where he was during the time his ex-wife likely died was a big issue, along with changes in his explanation from the early investigation to a 2013 deposition.
"It seems convenient and too odd a guy of his intelligence cannot remember and follow and watch and know what he had done the night before," he said.
Sharp also cited the scratch on Wall's face the day von Schwedler was found dead and the man's trip to a carwash that morning to have his car's interior cleaned.
Still, there was little physical evidence directly placing Wall at the house.
And even as the case came to a close, it was unclear exactly how the dangerously large amount of Xanax got into von Schwedler's system. One expert said a wound on her wrist could have concealed an injection site, but the drug comes only in pill form and isn't soluble in water.
Sharp said the evidence that Wall filled a large Xanax prescription months before von Schwedler's death, had access to syringes from his office and likely knew where her spare key was hidden showed he had the means to commit the crime.
"In the end, we felt like it was the right decision, but it was hard, really, for all of us," Sharp said. "It was a tough case."
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