PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Danish jet-setter Claus von Bulow, weeping with relief and applauded by spectators, was acquitted today of twice trying to murder his heiress wife with insulin injections.
The debonair financier, whose 1982 conviction on the same charges was overturned on appeal, said he was "very grateful to everyone" and had "no feeling of vindictiveness or any kind of hard feelings."
Von Bulow, 58, put his head on his hands and tears of joy welled in his eyes as the verdict at his retrial was announced. Supporters, many of whom had followed the nine-week trial like a riveting mystery novel, applauded the outcome.
Von Bulow's current girlfriend, Andrea Reynolds, a twice-divorced New Yorker, broke into tears.
Wants 'Quiet Life'
He said he wanted to put the ordeal behind him "by leading a quiet life and ceasing to be in the public eye."
The verdict by the eight-woman, four-man jury was announced to a packed courtroom after more than 12 hours of deliberations over a four-day period.
The verdict capped a five-year legal battle that rocked high-society Newport, R.I., where the Von Bulows lived on Millionaire's Row in a mansion called Clarendon Court. The nine-week retrial featured every element of a good soap opera: drugs, sex, alcohol, the "other" woman and even a maid.
Von Bulow's wife, Martha (Sunny) von Bulow, 53, remains in an irreversible coma in a New York hospital.
Prosecutors said Von Bulow tried to murder his wife for her utilities fortune and the chance to marry his former lover Alexandra Isles, a raven-haired actress who appeared on the TV soap opera "Dark Shadows."
Defense lawyers claimed Sunny von Bulow became comatose in 1979 and again in 1980 through her own abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Von Bulow, who did not take the stand in either of his trials, said those who brought charges against him, including the stepchildren who instigated the investigation, had been "misguided."
Smiling and appearing relaxed at a news conference after the verdict, the suave socialite said notes taken by a prosecution investigator, which were denied to his lawyers in the first trial, were vital to his successful defense in the retrial.
Asked what his plans were, the chain-smoking Von Bulow, a former aide to billionaire J. Paul Getty, replied, "Give up smoking."
Won't Return to Home
But Von Bulow said he will not return to Clarendon Court, where prosecutors claimed he injected his wife with insulin to aggravate her low blood-sugar condition.
"It has too tragic memories for me," he said. At the start of the retrial, Von Bulow went to the house and cried when he saw his beloved retriever dogs.
Superior Court Judge Corinne Grande said jurors would have no immediate comment on the verdict. "They're very fixed on that issue," she said.
Von Bulow's daughter, Cosima, 18, was not in the courtroom, although she had waited with her father all weekend during deliberations.
Von Bulow's stepchildren, Alexander von Auersperg and Annie-Laurie Kneissl, both of whom pressed for the investigation, were at Clarendon Court when they heard of the verdict.
"We were devastated because we feel our stepfather tried to murder our mother twice," said Kneissl, 27.
"He knows and we know that he tried to murder our mother," said Von Auersperg, 25. "But we know this jury was not permitted to hear all of the evidence that was permitted at the first trial."