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Von Bulow Case Will Go to Jury Today

June 07, 1985|SCOTT KRAFT | Times Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Claus von Bulow's second trial on charges that he twice tried to kill his wife will go for a decision today to a sequestered jury that has seen or heard nothing of the headline-producing verbal sniping that has attended the affair.

For nine weeks, while the jury has been kept from seeing newspaper and television coverage of the trial, Von Bulow has been chatting amiably with reporters about everything from the strengths of his case to the effects of antitrust legislation.

His 18-year-old daughter, Cosima, has been walking their golden retriever, Tiger, in the hotel lobby and smiling for the phalanx of TV cameras that follow her everywhere.

'Exclusive' Interviews

Von Bulow's chief accusers--the handsome stepchildren, a prince and princess by birth--have been holding press conferences and granting "exclusive" interviews to criticize their stepfather, his attorney and, recently, the judge.

Von Bulow's current companion, Andrea Reynolds, also "bared her claws," as one tabloid put it, describing a former Von Bulow mistress and star prosecution witness as "very pretty, but not marriage material," and accusing the stepchildren of "making silly noises."

All the activity outside the trial has somewhat overshadowed the events inside Courtroom 8. But on Thursday, the attention in this summer soap opera--a tale of royalty, mistresses, fortunes and ill-will--returned to court, as Von Bulow's Brooklyn-bred attorney and the mild-mannered Rhode Island prosecutor made their closing arguments.

'Let Chips Fall'

Thomas P. Puccio, Von Bulow's attorney, asked the jury to "lift from him the burden of this monstrous, incredible allegation."

"We don't ask for sympathy," Puccio said. "We ask you to look at the facts and let the chips fall where they may."

Marc DeSisto, the prosecutor, countered: "It all adds up . . . to a well-thought-out and calculated plan to kill his wife. This is a classic case--Mr. Von Bulow and (his former mistress) Alexandra Isles with one person in the way--Mrs. Von Bulow."

Today, after Superior Court Judge Corinne P. Grande instructs them, the jurors will begin deciding whether Von Bulow, 58, of New York and Newport, R.I., injected his wife, Martha (Sunny) von Bulow, with insulin in two attempts to kill her and be free to marry Isles, a former soap opera actress.

No Search Warrant

Von Bulow was convicted in 1982 by a jury that deliberated six days. The conviction was overturned on appeal because state police had failed to obtain a search warrant and the defense had been improperly denied access to the notes of a private detective.

Von Bulow, who did not testify at either trial, said Thursday he felt "much better" than he had at the same point in the first trial. "The prosecution was extremely effective, but one element was missing--our medical testimony," he said. That testimony indicated that insulin did not cause Mrs. Von Bulow's two comas.

DeSisto, the prosecutor, described the black bag, which Mrs. Von Bulow's maid said at one time contained a vial marked insulin, as the key to the state's case.

"This was Claus von Bulow's secret means to kill his wife," DeSisto said, waving the small bag before the jury. "Every time you touch this bag, you think of the defendant."

'Red Herring'

Puccio called the bag "a red herring" that was irrelevant to the case because its contents--syringes and barbiturates--were shared by Von Bulow and his wife.

The heart of the case, Puccio said, was the insulin. The defense presented a half-dozen of the "top experts in the world" in endocrinology and toxicology who testified that a mixture of alcohol and Valium or Seconal--and not an injection of insulin--caused Mrs. Von Bulow's comas, he said.

Mrs. Von Bulow, 53, heir to a $75-million Pittsburgh utilities fortune, recovered shortly after lapsing into the first coma, in December, 1979. In December, 1980, however, she again fell into a coma from which she has not recovered. Both incidents occurred at the Von Bulows' Clarendon Court estate on the ocean in Newport.

The stepchildren, Alexander von Auersperg and Annie-Laurie (Ala) Kneissel, Mrs. Von Bulow's children by her first marriage, still live at Clarendon Court. Von Bulow and Cosima, his daughter by Mrs. Von Bulow, live at the family's Fifth Avenue apartment in New York.

Hired Private Eye

Von Auersperg, 25, and Kneissel, 26, hired a private detective to investigate their stepfather after Mrs. Von Bulow's second coma. Frustrated by rulings against the prosecution in the retrial, they hired a former press aide to New York Mayor Edward I. Koch and broke their long silence to complain through the media.

Continuing to make their case, they appeared on "Good Morning, America" Thursday, held a press conference outside the courthouse and earlier in the week posed for People magazine photographers at Clarendon Court.

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