PORTLAND — The manslaughter trial of Ernest Weidul is on hold as Mercy Hospital fights the judge’s order to disclose information related to reviews of the alleged victim’s death.

Opening statements were scheduled for Tuesday, but the trial is being delayed as Mercy Hospital appeals to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The hospital must file its brief with the court by 10:30 a.m. today. It’s not clear when the court will rule.

Weidul, 52, is charged with manslaughter in the death of Roger Downs Jr., who was 46.

Downs died at Mercy Hospital on May 7, 2010, two days after Weidul allegedly beat Downs in Downs’ apartment on Forest Avenue during a night of heavy drinking.

Weidul’s legal team argues that Downs died from a type of pneumonia, rather than a closing of his airways caused by injuries to his neck, as the prosecution contends.

Downs did have pneumonia, but the hospital did not diagnose it or treat him for it. The hospital is arguing to the Supreme Court that information related to Mercy’s reviews of Downs’ death – including testimony from people who may have participated in the reviews – should remain confidential.

Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler, the trial judge, ruled previously that witnesses from Mercy Hospital could disclose Downs’ health information in their testimony. She put certain limits on evidence related to the reviews, including a requirement that identifying information about people involved in the reviews be redacted.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley noted in an order Tuesday that the court typically does not consider such appeals filed before the conclusion of a trial. She wrote that the hospital must show why its appeal shouldn’t be dismissed.

“We are aware that a jury has been selected but not yet empaneled,” Saufley wrote. “Time is of the essence.”

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AnnKimPPH