Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The televised murder trial of Claus von Bulow helped inaugurate the era of sensational courtroom drama. After von Bulow was acquitted of trying to murder his wife, he settled her children's $56 million civil lawsuit by agreeing to divorce the heiress and renounce claims to her fortune. He now resides in London; his former wife remains in a coma. An excerpt from The Post of June 11, 1985:
A jury of eight women and four men today declared Claus von Bulow not guilty of trying twice to kill his wife, heiress Martha (Sunny) von Bulow, with injections of insulin.
If only for a moment, all the noted poise and aristocratic bearing escaped the Danish-born socialite. As the jury foreman pronounced the verdict, von Bulow shut his eyes and bowed his head as if in prayer. When he opened his eyes again, they were rimmed red and brimming with tears.
Von Bulow shook hands with his attorneys, Thomas Puccio and John Sheehan, and tried to regain his accustomed composure. Two rows behind the defense table, von Bulow's companion, French citizen Andrea Reynolds, wept uncontrollably into a tissue and clutched her stomach as if to soothe her own trembling. There was applause, even a few muffled cheers. In the back of the mobbed courtroom, a woman fainted into a man's arms. "Thank God," she said before passing out. "Justice is done."
So ended a trial that had all the broad gestures and gaudy trappings of soap opera: fantastic wealth, sexual infidelity, sibling rivalry and crime. Indeed, the trial was broadcast live for two months on cable television.
"I'm very relieved and, above all, I'm grateful to my attorneys," von Bulow, 58, said later at a press conference. "It's been five years of worry." Assuming the tragic mantle, von Bulow said the purpose of the trial was "suffering."
Von Bulow was convicted on the same charges three years ago after the jury deliberated for 37 hours, but the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned the ruling on technical grounds. During this trial the defense relied solely on medical testimony and did not call von Bulow himself to the witness stand. ...
The prosecution had accused von Bulow of trying to kill his wife in 1979 and 1980 at Clarendon Court, their mansion in Newport, R.I., in order to marry his then lover, former soap opera actress Alexandra Isles, and to inherit approximately $14 million of her $75 million utilities fortune. ...
The prosecution was able to persuade Isles to return from Europe and repeat her 1982 testimony that she had given him a deadline for divorcing his wife shortly before the first coma. She also testified he told her of watching his wife suffer for hours during that coma before deciding he could not go through with letting her die.
Revived after a brief coma in 1979, Sunny von Bulow, 53, has been in an irreversible second coma since December 1980. Doctors say she could live another 30 years. The defense denied the presence of insulin, contending that Sunny von Bulow's condition was brought on by a combination of drugs and alcohol.