Patricia Rosier died on January 15, 1986, with the help of her husband Peter Rosier. She was 43 years old and a mother of two. Her husband Peter was a prominent physician in Fort Myers Florida. He was indicted for first-degree murder by Lee County grand jury 10 months later. Patricia had been diagnosed in April 1985 with lung cancer. Which eventually moved to her brain. Her husband felt that there was a lawsuit of malpractice, as he believed she should have had the x-rays six months earlier (Oct. 1985) Dr Rosier admitted in an interview with a Fort Myers NBC affiliate, WBBH Channel 20 that he helped his wife end her life. He admitted in his manuscript ”I gave her two injections of morphine… I inserted four morphine suppositories into the rectum of my love.” Peter was challenging the laws of euthanasia as he had seen other doctor’s help people from their suffering. But they were never prosecuted.
He never thought that Peter would get anything more than a slap on the wrist. But the state’s prosecutor chose to go for murder one and the electric chair. Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt chose together to take this case. It was a case of a dying woman who had fought a very hard battle with cancer, and her loving husband who would do anything to see her suffering stop. But in our judicial system, if you know someone or you happen to get the right defence attorney, who happens to be in good with the system, things can go your way. Peter was born in Long Island New York and was what Fort Myers considered a liberal New York Jew. And to use Tom Wolfe’s great phrase Dr Rosier was “The Great White Defendant.” He was intelligent, rich, arrogant and opinionated. Peter and Patricia moved to Fort Myers in 1973. He was the chief of pathology at Lee Memorial Hospital and maintained a private medical practice and was extremely profitable.
They definitely lived a good life. He was despised in Fort Myers for not keeping his mouth shut and for suing Lee Memorial hospital and a fellow physician. The news media tried to characterize him as a despicable human being. The news press approximate circulation of 135,000 constantly said that Peter “killed his wife” and that he confessed to “killing his wife.” In a “Sunday Special” the newspaper said that Peter went on television to “drum up publicity” for his manuscript in hopes that it would become a best seller. The newspaper wrote all kinds of things as they felt his television appearance was a confession. So no wonder he was hated so much. And all they wrote was highly prejudicial to him having a fair trial. Landis McMahon was pretty much the opinion of Fort Myers they hated Peter, blacks and even Ohioans. The problem was the defence didn’t think that Peter could get a fair trial in Fort Myers and obtained 91 affidavits stating that.
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The state had obtained sixty-two affidavits that said he could get a fair trial. But the defences stated facts and the prosecutions was just a form. After Judge Thompson listened to all the facts. He then ordered a change of venue to St. Petersburg. Florida on Aug. 10, 1988, about 100 miles away. This was not one of the several choices the defence wanted but at least they felt they had a fighting chance there as they felt they could get a decent jury selection there (like people from New York, New Jersey may be some Italians or Jews) the trial would begin on Monday, Oct. 31, 1988, 9:00 AM since this was a capital case the jury selection and opening statements were the first week and then the states first witness would take the seat on Nov. 7, 1988, Monday.
After a good cross-examination of Delman’s Stanley’s wife, Susan would remind him of Peter’s confession. Peter could not understand that him helping his wife was just as destructive as walking in and shooting someone in the eyes of the state. Dr Yesner, a top pathologist from Yale, had examined Patricia’s tumour slides and advised against chemotherapy, as the cancer cells were extremely aggressive and not controllable. He also agreed to testify for the defence. The state portrayed him as money-hungry and that he paid $40,000 to have his manuscript put into a movie script, and that he told a friend that he wanted to make a billion dollars on the book and drive around Fort Myers in a Rolls Royce. They claimed Peter manipulated Patricia into letting him help her die to make his manuscript more dramatic. The state twisted everything so that the jurors would believe that Peter killed his wife to gain financially. They wanted the jury to know before Patricia contracted cancer that Peter was earning $800,000 a year and he no longer practices medicine. The States line of attack consisted of:
- The television confession
- The confession to reporter Leisa Zigman (Patricia let her have an interview on Jan. 14, 1986, the day before her death)
- The manuscript
- Friends testimony
- Attack Peter’s character
- Delman’s Patricia’s brothers and stepfather wanted Peter to pay for telling what happened.
First on the stand was Channel 20 reporter Leisa Zigman she basically denied pushing to get the second interview with Peter and said she didn’t know what happened o the first interview (which was never aired) and the raw footage of the second interview (7 ½ minutes not shown). The creditability of Channel 20 and Miss Zigman was hurt during her time on the stand. She seemed to forget a lot about the whereabouts of the tapes. During the reading of chapter 34 of the manuscript, Peter rushed out of the courtroom sobbing heavily. (television cameras and reporters filled the courtroom). It tells of how Patricia dies, she takes 20 seconal tablets but that’s not enough to kill her. So he calls a doctor who gave him a prescription for two injections of morphine that equalled eight milligrams. She did not die from the injections so he called another doctor and ask for help the doctor said “she is in pain I’ll be there” and he wrote a prescription for 20-milligram suppositories.
He then inserted four 20 milligrams of suppositories and kissed her and cried. He was trying to help his love finish her journey. He then left the room and called the undertaker and told him his wife was dying and ask for a simple pine box and told him she was to be cremated. Then he ordered a blanket of white roses to cover the coffin. Then Russell (Pat’s brother) came out and said she was dead. Vincent being very frustrated and emotional placed his finger over Patricia’s mouth and nose, subsequently smothering or suffocating her. As the medicine (morphine) not more than twelve hours before was not working as quickly as they thought. They wanted her not to suffer anymore; she had been through enough. Now Stanley (Peter’s attorney) had to make the jury hate all the Delman’s more than Peter. The Delman’s testified that Peter tricked Pat into believing that her tumours would burst and she would choke on her own blood (medically unlikely).
And made her believe that she would die any day (which she may have lived several months). And that Peter deceitfully leads the Delman’s to believe the seconal and morphine would not kill her, that is why Vincent (her dad) put his fingers over her mouth and nose. As the case goes on in the closing arguments the prosecutor wants the jury to believe Peter was this terrible person. The defence wants then to believe he is a compassionate, loving husband who loved his wife so much that he didn’t want her to suffer. The defence wants to question the prosecutions witnesses credibility. The jury went to deliberate at 9:55 AM. At 12:55 PM the Jury had arrived at a verdict. In just three hours they had decided the fate of Robert Peter Rosier, 20 minutes later the court would read not guilty to the first count of first-degree murder, not guilty to the second count conspiracy to commit murder and not guilty to the third count.
The court was in bedlam (that word is in the transcript that described the chaos and pandemonium in the courtroom at the time of the reading of the verdict.). The state could not appeal. It was over. Peter was elated and hugged his children, Gretchen and Patricia’s aunt. Dr Rosier never thought he was committing murder. He thought he was helping fulfil his wives wished and let her go with dignity the way she lived and in her own home with her family around. I agree with the ruling in this case. Peter was just trying to do what his wife wanted him to do. And put her out of the pain that she was in. I believe that his family was just afraid that they would get into trouble if the admitted to what they agreed to do as assisting in suicide with a terminally ill person is just a much a crime as going out and shooting someone you don’t know. Taking life in the eyes of the law is wrong no matter who, how or why it is done.
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