1 minute read

Claus Von Bulow Trials: 1982 & 1985

Witness Cites Mysterious Vials, New Trial, New Evidence, Suggestions For Further Reading.

Defendant: Claus Von Bulow
Crime Charged: Attempted murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: First trial: John Sheenan and Herold Price Fahringer; second trial: Thomas P. Puccio and John Sheehan
Chief Prosecutors: First trial: Stephen Famiglietti and Susan McGuirl; second trial: Marc DeSisto and Henry Gemma
Judges: First trial: Thomas H. Needham; second trial: Corrine Grande
Places: First trial: Newport, Rhode Island; second trial: Providence, Rhode Island
Dates of Trials: First trial: January 11-March 16, 1982; second trial: April 25-June 10, 1985.
Verdict: First trial: Guilty; second trial: not guilty
Sentence: 20 years imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: A study in contrasts, the two trials of Claus Von Bulow provide a unique insight into the excesses and foibles of the super-rich.

For 13 years Claus and Martha "Sunny" Von Bülow had been bulwarks of Rhode Island's blueblood colony, but by 1979 their marriage was over in all but name. Around Christmas of that year Sunny slipped into a coma at their oceanside mansion. Claus dithered over summoning medical attention and only prompt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation revived the ailing woman. Sunny seemed as baffled as everyone else as to the cause. Almost exactly one year later, on December 21, 1980, she again lapsed into a coma and was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where she remained comatose as of this writing. A family-inspired investigation led to indictments against Von Billow, a Danish-born aristocrat, charging that he had twice attempted to murder Sunny by injecting her with insulin.

Because of its glittering cast, the trial attracted global attention. The courthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, jammed with reporters and TV cameras, reflected this when testimony began February 2, 1982. Prosecutor Stephen Famiglietti argued that with a $14-million inheritance, the house, and a beautiful young mistress all at stake, Von Bülow had every reason to want Sunny dead. Describing the delay in requesting medical help, Famiglietti said: "He generally conducted himself in a manner not consistent with that of an innocent man."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988