Dr. Charles "Bill" Mercer, who showed little emotion in court prior to Thursday, was smiling big as he hugged his lawyers, family members and friends. This after Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette dismissed the murder case against him.
Dr. Mercer, a prominent Okemos surgeon, had been charged with open murder for the 1968 death of his wife Sally. The investigation into her death was re-opened in 1995. Her body was exhumed in 2003. Dr. Mercer was arrested and charged in June of 2006.
Judge Collette said too much time had passed since her death, evidence lost and witnesses had died or just couldn't remember important details. It would be difficult to prosecute and Dr. Mercer's right to a fair and speedy trial had been compromised.
Dr. Mercer, now 73, declined to comment. His attorney Chris Bergstrom says,"We're hoping everybody can just realize this is the time to let it go. If there should have been a trial, if there should have been a prosecution it should have been in 1968,1969,1970."
Prosecutors say the doctor killed Sally, in their Okemos home, by giving her a lethal dose of the painkiller propoxyphene. His lawyers say she had been taking it voluntarily and tests showed it was present in hair samples taken from her.
Prosecutors say the cause of death, listed as polio, was a cover up by the pathologist at the time, a Mercer family friend. They say the doctor was having an affair and Sally was afraid he was going to kill her.
Judge Collette said in court Thursday,"I don't believe even our best authors could have written a script better then this."
Dr. Mercer's friend Frank Garrison says,"He's been through hell...this is a big load off of him."
After the ruling Prosecuting attorney Eric Matwiejczyk said simply,"This is a sad day for Sally."
Bergstrom added,"It may be a sad day for the prosecution, but not for the Mercer family."