A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Albrecht Gero Muth, the man charged with the 2011 beating death of his elderly wife, is unfit to represent himself in his murder trial next month.
Muth has dropped to about 120 pounds and is at risk of organ failure due to a two-month hunger strike, his doctor testified.
During a hearing Thursday, Judge Russell F. Canan denied Muth’s request to represent himself and reappointed two public defenders to represent him in his upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin March 25.
Canan’s decision came after Muth’s physician, Russom Ghebrai, of United Medical Center, testified that Muth is “bed ridden” and unable to sit up or stand. “He is very weak,” Ghebrai said.
Muth, who stands over 6 feet tall, is charged with first-degree murder in the August 2011 death of his wife Viola Hermes Drath, 91, his wife of 22 years. Muth has embarked on multiple hunger fasts, causing delays in his trial. His latest fast began Dec. 20, after Canan ruled him competent to stand trial, and resulted in his hospitalization in January. He has told doctors that the fasts are part of his religious beliefs, ordered by the archangel Gabriel.
Authorities said Drath was beaten and strangled in her Georgetown home. Muth, a German native who has maintained that he is an Iraqi general, has repeatedly told officials that he did not kill his wife and that Drath’s death was the result of an Iranian hit intended for him. Muth is facing life in prison.
Canan said he refuses to delay the trial again. Muth participated in Thursday’s hearing via speakerphone. Ghebrai said Muth has refused most foods and fluids, only sporadically drinking juice and eating ice cream. “His prognosis is poor. He is at risk of organ failure if he does not eat,” Ghebrai said.
Jail officials said force-feeding Muth was not an option because Muth would only remove the tubes.
Ghebrai said Muth could be wheeled into the courtroom for his trial, but his condition put him at risk of cardiac arrest. Canan said he would consider video-conferencing Muth from his hospital bed.
“Mr. Muth has manipulated the legal and medical proceedings and this fast is another device to avoid going to trial,” Canan said. Another hearing is set for March 7.