Entries in Murder Trial (9)


Albrecht Muth’s Refusal to Eat Delays Murder Trial

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post(WASHINGTON) -- A bizarre murder case involving a German expatriate who claims to be an Iraqi general and the death of his 91-year-old wife is now further complicated by the fact that the defendant is refusing to eat.

Albrecht Muth, 48, was supposed to stand trial Wednesday for the murder of his wife, Viola Drath. Instead, he is lying in a Washington hospital nearly starved to death, prompting a judge to indefinitely postpone the case due to his poor health condition.

Lying completely reposed in a hospital bed for his first and only interview since his arrest, Muth told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that he is not on a hunger strike but is fasting for religious reasons.

“I’m opposed to killing myself, I’m a Roman Catholic,” says Muth, who adds that he will eat again when he is “commanded or permitted to.”

Muth’s strange behavior started well before he was implicated in his wife’s murder. He has a reputation in Washington as a sort of con man.

He was known for hosting parties to which he invited numerous luminaries and government officials, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Ambassador Anne Patterson, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Gen. Peter Chiarelli, as well as journalists, including Raddatz and CBS’ David Martin.

Muth would send invitations featuring a guest of honor, who was usually a visiting Iraqi official; and upon arrival, guests would be escorted to a basement dining room only to be informed by Muth, who was often dressed as an Iraqi general, that the guest of honor would not be able to make it. (Raddatz once attended a dinner at Muth’s house and left early after sensing it was a scam.)

Another habit of Muth’s was to regularly send elaborate emails to journalists and government officials making it appear he had senior contacts within the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, when in reality he did not.

Muth says he did not kill his wife, to whom he was married for 22 years, calling himself a “convenient suspect.” Muth has been accused of previous incidents of violence toward Drath and even acknowledges a specific assault in 1992.

“I have no recollection, it was a bad moment, but it is correct,” Muth says of assaulting Drath.

Muth maintains that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who he says had a key to their house, murdered his late wife.

Detectives did not initially expect foul play when Drath was found dead in her Georgetown home on August 12, 2011, but the medical examiner discovered that she had been strangled to death after finding bruising and broken cartilage in her neck.

Muth says he was out of the house the night she was killed and only discovered her after returning to the home at 10 a.m. the next morning.

Muth, who still insists that he is legitimately connected to the Iraqi military, is transparent about one thing: his lack of affection for his late wife, which he characterized as a “marriage of convenience.”

“She provided the stage, I the play,” says Muth of his marriage to Drath.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Murder Trial for Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader Ends After One Day

Hemera/Thinkstock(HEFEI, China) -- Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, stood trial on Thursday for the murder of a British businessman last November.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, the prosecutors claimed that Gu and her son Bo Guagua had conflicts with Neil Heywood -- once an advisor with financial ties to the Chinese political family -- over economic interests.  

Gu reportedly feared for her son’s safety and decided, prosecutors said, to poison Heywood with the help of an aide in a hotel room.

The court-appointed defense team rebutted, saying Gu had weak self control and was in a fragile state of mind.

Following the arguments from both sides, a court official informed reporters that the trial had finished after just one day.  A verdict is expected at a later date, which has yet to be announced.

Kailai's trial is being considered the highest profile court case in China in over three decades and comes at a particularly sensitive time for China as it prepares to undergo a significant change in leadership.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Murder Trial to Begin for Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HEFEI, China) -- As if the 2012 Olympics in London were not providing enough drama, the murder trial for Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, begins Thursday in Hefei.

Kailai was indicted last November in connection with the death of Brit Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing last. Heywood was once an advisor with financial ties to the Chinese political family.

Bo Xilai had for years been a powerful, rising member of the Communist party in charge of Chongqing. He fell from grace in spectacular fashion last spring. His own police chief, Wang Lijun, sought refuge at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, reportedly presenting U.S. officials with incriminating evidence of corruption against both Xilai and Kailai. Lijun feared for his own life because of his direct connection to them both. He is believed to be held by authorities in Beijing, but has not been seen or heard from for months.

The drama comes at a particularly sensitive time for China. Not only is it the most high profile political scandal in a generation, it involves both the U.K. and the U.S. and comes as the Chinese leadership prepares to undergo a once-a-decade change of power.

Kailai is not being tried for corrupt financial practices; a sign the government may have been wary of setting a precedent for exposing the shady practices of top party members in Chinese leadership. She is also considered the most exposed of the three players (including Xilai and Lijun) in this cloak and dagger drama and the only one who could take the fall without directly shaming the party. She has, for example, no power base or close allies (she and her husband are reportedly estranged).

On the murder charge, she will most likely be found guilty (China has a 98 percent conviction rate and often carries the death penalty). The trial is being described as nothing more than show; Kailai -- a lawyer herself -- was told she had to use local lawyers selected by the government and by some accounts is making no effort to refute charges.

But she could receive leniency; it is noteworthy that state-run media has published her mea culpa as protective action taken on behalf of her son, Bo Guagua. He recently received his masters degree from Harvard University, and is believed to still be living in the U.S.  He spoke out on the eve of his mother’s trial. In a written statement to CNN he said, “I have faith the facts will speak for themselves.”

Some here are comparing this trial to that of another party leader’s wife, Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing. She was tried in 1980 in connection with the uprising in Tiananmen Square. Qing and three others, known as the Gang of Four, were tried and convicted for masterminding political upheaval at the time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox's Sisters 'Hoping for the Best' as Appeals Trial Concludes

MARIO LAPORTA/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Every week for the past four years, at least one member of Amanda Knox's family has made the trip to the Italian prison where the American student is being held.

Wednesday morning, Knox's parents, stepparents, aunts and sisters made what they hope will be their final visit to the prison as the appeals case in her 2009 murder conviction nears its conclusion. They're hoping the case will end in a verdict that will free her from a sentence of 26 years in jail.

"She's doing really good," Knox's sister, Deana, told ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday in an exclusive interview from Italy with Knox's two other sisters, Ashley and Delaney, after their visit.

Knox, 24, and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27, were convicted in 2009 of murdering Knox's British roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, where both women were spending a year abroad to study.  Knox has been sentenced to 26 years, while Sollecito got 25 years in prison.

"I cherish every moment I get with her because you don't know when it could be your last," Knox's younger sister, Delaney, who had not seen her sister in two years before Wednesday's visit, told GMA.  "But I'm hoping for the best and things are going good."

Knox's family said they now see new reason for hope in the final days of the often tense trial.

Knox herself looked more optimistic in court this week as her lawyers urged the judge and jury, "If you have any doubt about the DNA evidence, you must set her free."

At the end of Tuesday's session, Edda Mellas, Knox's mother, told ABC News that she saw Knox smile for the first time and asked her daughter, "'Can you feel the light?' because today's hearing was great."

"I think we got past all of the hard stuff in the last couple of days," Deana said on GMA.  "We finally started the good days with all the defense and she was really happy that process has begun."

The judge presiding over the appeal by Knox and Sollecito said that the final arguments were moving along so quickly that a verdict could come as soon as Saturday.  It had originally been anticipated to be delivered early next week.

A key moment in the trial still to come will be when Amanda Knox addresses the court, either Friday or Saturday.  Knox will be the last person to speak before the six jurors and two judges retire to decide whether to overturn her murder conviction and set her free, or increase her 26-year prison sentence to life in prison.

Knox's family said she has been working on the statement, which she plans to deliver in Italian, for more than three months.

"She really wants to just show the court who she really is," Deana said on GMA. "She doesn't want them to believe the character that all the prosecutors have played out.  She wants them to know who she is."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Called 'She Devil,' Shown Roommate's Wounds at Trial

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- The lawyer for Amanda Knox's slain roommate showed an Italian appeals court Monday autopsy pictures of the more than 40 wounds on her body because he wanted the jury to know "how this girl suffered."

The photos and summation presented by the lawyer for Meredith Kercher's family capped a grueling day for Knox who was earlier described by another lawyer as a "she devil," a "liar" and a woman who has an "angelic" side as well as a "diabolic" side.

The Kerchers' lawyer Francesco Maresca was one of several civil lawyers who addressed the court on Monday in a series of summations in the appeal by Knox, 24, and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27.  Both have been convicted of killing Kercher in November 2007.  Knox is serving a 26-year prison term while Sollecito was given a 25-year term.

The stakes are excruciatingly high for the former Seattle college student.  While Knox and Sollecito are hoping they will be let out of the Italian prison where they have been confined for the last four years, prosecutors have asked the appeals court to increase their sentences to life in prison.

Maresca was the third lawyer to speak Monday and he presented the jury with a second look at autopsy photos that had been shown earlier in the appeal.  While the court was cleared when the grisly photos were originally shown, spectators were allowed to remain in the courtroom this time.

The lawyer held up a photo of Kercher when she was alive and said, "I don't know why such a happy girl was killed."

He then proceeded to show photos of her naked and bloodied body, including a picture of the fatal gash on Kercher's neck.  Some of the jurors looked away.  The lawyer said the lack of any defensive wounds on Kercher indicated that she was either tied up or held by others, preventing her from defending herself.

"I'm showing these photos to make you understand how this girl suffered," Maresca told the court.

"We are asking for justice," he said.

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, called the repeated use of the photos "disgusting."  She told ABC News that she found the "personal attack on my daughter a sign of desperation because they have no evidence."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Investigators Defend Their Forensic Methods

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Italian police who investigated the Amanda Knox murder case gave a detailed defense of their forensic expertise Monday, rejecting accusations by a panel of experts that their methods were badly flawed and contaminated key evidence.

The appeal of the murder conviction by Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito resumed Monday after a summer break, and came a day after the sister of the murder victim, British exchange student Meredith Kercher, issued a passionate plea for the court to assess "every single (piece) of evidence" so that justice can be done.

The body of Kercher, a 21-year-old British exchange student, was found in 2007 in the Perugia, Italy, apartment she shared with Knox and two Italian female students.

Knox, 24, was sentenced in December 2009 to 26 years and Sollecito was ordered to serve 25 years in prison for Kercher's murder and sexual assault.

A third person, Rudy Guede, was also convicted in a separate trial for participating in the murder and is serving a 16-year sentence. He has exhausted his appeals.

Both Knox and Sollecito have insisted they are innocent and their hope for exoneration was bolstered by a report by two DNA experts earlier this year that called into question police methods for handling and analyzing DNA evidence that was used to win a conviction.

The panel said there was too little DNA on a knife that was the alleged murder weapon to test properly; that the DNA was improperly stored in plastic bags that would degrade DNA rather using the international standard of paper bags; and that investigators likely contaminated a bra clasp with DNA that placed Sollecito at the scene of the murder.

The key witness Monday was Patrizia Stefanoni, the police forensic scientist who carried out the original investigation.

Using a PowerPoint screen to defend her work to the courtroom, Stefanoni argued it is not true that there was not enough DNA on the knife to retest, stating that there are newer DNA kits available now that were not available at the time of Kercher's murder in 2007 that could read the DNA amount. She also argued there are no internationally accepted international protocols for DNA collection.

Stefanoni said they used U.S. made plastic sealed certified bags instead of paper in the DNA collection.

She is expected to defend her team's handling of the bra clasp before her testimony concludes. Stefanoni will return to the stand Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Case: Forensic Experts Get Extension to do Tests

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images (File)(ROME) -- An Italian court has granted forensic experts extra time to submit their report in the case involving American Amanda Knox, who was convicted of killing her roommate in 2007.

The court’s decision to grant the independent experts more time came on Saturday, the same day that experts were supposed to submit a DNA report. Experts now have until June 30 to hand in the report.

Knox was present at Saturday’s hearing, and spoke out about her experience in prison so far, describing it as being “very frustrating” and “exhausting.”

“I am in prison for three years now and I am innocent,” Knox said, while speaking before the court in Italian. “It is very frustrating and it is exhausting and I want the truth to be found. There have been many mistakes and many prejudices.”

In December, 2010 Knox was sentenced to 26 years behind bars for the killing of roommate Meredith Kercher. The 21-year-old British native was found dead in November, 2007 at the home she shared with Knox in the city of Perugia.

The testing by the forensic experts comes as Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, have appealed their convictions in the murder case. Sollecito was also found guilty of murdering Kercher, and is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Experts are testing DNA evidence that was said to be found on a knife, believed to be a murder weapon, and on a bra clip found at the scene. Experts are testing to determine whether the results from the original test were valid.

In response to the court’s ruling, Knox said, “I want to thank the court for accepting the independent forensic experts’ requests because this is very important.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Key Witness in Amanda Knox Trial Stumbles in Testimony 

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- A key witness in the Italy court trial of American student Amanda Knox gave conflicting statements in court on Saturday when asked to recount what he saw on the night of November 1, 2007.

Knox, 23, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who turned 27 on Saturday, are appealing their 2009 conviction, of 26 and 25 years in prison respectively, for sexual assault and murder in the death of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Saturday's main witness, Antonio Curatolo, testified in Knox's first trial in 2009 that he had seen Knox and Sollecito in Piazza Grimana – the square above the house Knox shared with Kercher – on the night of the murder. Curatolo was the only eyewitness brought by the prosecution in the first trial that the judges deemed reliable.

In an effort to dismantle Curatolo's testimony, the defense team for Knox and Sollecito called a number of witnesses on March 12. Disco owners and bus drivers testified that most discos were closed on the night of November 1, 2007 because they had their big Halloween events the night before.

Curatolo, who in 2007 lived outdoors in the Piazza Grimana square, told the court on Saturday that he had seen Knox and Sollecito in the square on November 1 talking animatedly. When asked what night it was, he said he thought it was Halloween.

He then contradicted himself, by telling the prosecutor that he was sure that it was the very next day, at around 1 or 2 p.m., that he saw police cars driving by the square. He said he saw police "and people in white suits" inside and outside the cottage where Knox lived with Kercher. Kercher's body was discovered mid-day on Nov. 2.

The court in Perugia set the next hearing in the case for May 21, when court-assigned independent DNA experts will present their report regarding key DNA evidence presented in the first trial.

A third person, Rudy Guede, was convicted to 16 years in prison for his role in the crime. He was tried separately from Knox and Sollecito and has exhausted his appeals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox in Italian Court to Appeal 26-Year Sentence

Photo Courtesy - TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- A judge has agreed to review forensic evidence in the case against Amanda Knox, the young American woman convicted of killing her British roommate in 2007.

Knox was back in Italian court Saturday for the most important hearing since her conviction. The Seattle student is appealing her 26-year prison sentence, handed down for her involvement in the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The prosecution is also appealing the ruling; it wants Knox to spend her life behind bars.

Knox’s lawyers have argued that the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife, did not have enough traces of her DNA.

“We know absolutely, unequivocally, simply, there was no evidence whatsoever of Amanda Knox in the room where Meredith Kercher was killed,” Knox’s lawyer, Theodore Simon, said.

"I saw [Amanda] yesterday,” said Knox’s mother, Edda Mellas. “She's okay. It is a very scary time for her. She's afraid the truth won't come out, but she's hanging in there.’’

A court in Perugia last year found Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, guilty of killing Kercher, whose semi-naked body was found in a pool of blood, her throat slashed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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