Trials & Litigation

Due to hunger strike, suspect is found unable to stand trial in murder of his wife

Albrecht Muth was scheduled to go to trial Monday for the murder of his socialite wife, Viola Drath, 91, whom he said he found beaten and strangled to death in the bathroom of their townhome near the nation’s capitol in 2011, after the two had been married for more than 20 years.

But the 48-year-old German expatriate won’t have to back his claims of innocence by appearing to defend the case. Because of a hunger strike he began in December, after being found competent to stand trial, he is too weak to appear in court and lawyers for both sides agreed it isn’t feasible for him to appear remotely from his hospital bed, reports the Associated Press.

It remains to be seen what can be done to change what the judge describes as the “limbo status” of the case–Muth claims his fasting is for religious reasons, and it may be impossible for the government to obtain a force-feeding order because of his weak physical condition. Muth has been hospitalized for two months and is unable to sit or stand, the article explains.

Although Superior Court Judge Russell Canan was willing to consider video testimony, prosecutor Glenn Kirschner saw little benefit to having a defendant who could “very well die on camera, on a two-way video feed” appear before a jury in this manner.

Suspicion focused on Muth, who reportedly misrepresented some aspects of his background throughout at least much of his marriage to Drath, after investigators found no sign of forced entry into the couple’s home and determined that he had scratches on his body that could have come from a physical struggle. He also caused concern by presenting what prosecutors say was a forged document to assert a right to a portion of her estate after she removed him from her will,

Muth, who is over six feet tall, weighed 120 pounds last month and at that point was determined to be unable to represent himself at trial due to his physical condition, the Washington Post reported earlier.

Additional coverage:

Georgetown Patch: “Murder Defendant, Warned that Fasting May Waive Trial Rights: ‘I Opt for God’ “

New York Times (July 2012): “The Worst Marriage in Georgetown”

Washington Post (Aug. 2011): “Viola Drath’s husband forged inheritance document, court papers say”

WJLA (Feb. 2012): “Viola Drath, Albrecht Muth’s strange marriage”

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