Muth’s attorney challenge St. Elizabeths report regarding client’s competency

Attorneys for the man accused of beating his socialite wife to death in their Georgetown home disputed on Thursday the assessment of doctors at St. Elizabeths Hospital that the defendant was competent to stand trial. A judge scheduled a hearing on the matter for December.

Attorneys for Albrecht Gero Muth, 48, argued in D.C. Superior Court that doctors employed by the defense need more time to evaluate his mental fitness. Muth, who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Viola Drath, 91, should remain at St. Elizabeths, the District-run psychiatric hospital, pending a competency hearing, they said.

The defense’s assessment of Muth contradicted a conclusion reached by doctors at St. Elizabeths and by doctors hired by prosecutors.

“We challenge this opinion and want to set a date to contest it at a competency hearing,” said Dana Page of the District’s Public Defender Service, one of Muth’s attorneys.

A trial in the case, once scheduled for October, has been delayed until March. At Thursday’s hearing, Judge Russell F. Canan, who scheduled the December hearing, appeared frustrated by the pace of the proceedings.

“There has been a lot of delay here,” Canan said. “I am concerned the delay may be part of Mr. Muth’s strategy.”

On Tuesday, St. Elizabeth’s doctors issued a report saying they thought that Muth was competent and was feigning psychological problems.

Muth has been a patient at St. Elizabeths since February, when doctors first found him incompetent to stand trial. At that time, and in subsequent reports, doctors said they thought that Muth would regain competency with monitoring and medication.

On Thursday, Canan said Muth will remain at St. Elizabeths until the court hears from the defense’s doctors and rules on Muth’s competency.

Muth was not present at the hearing. He was being treated at a hospital after resuming a hunger strike. St. Elizabeths doctors said Muth had become extremely weak and had lost about 25 pounds.

In August 2011, Drath’s body was found in a second-floor bathroom of the home she and Muth shared in the 3200 block of Q Street NW. Muth called police and said his wife was fatally injured in a fall, but a medical examiner ruled that she had been strangled and beaten.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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