The opening of the trial of two men charged in the July 19 kidnaping of Edith Rosenkranz, the wife of a wealthy businessman, for a $1 million ransom was delayed several hours yesterday after the alleged ringleader of the kidnaping appeared in U.S. District Court apparently too drugged to understand the proceedings.
A psychiatrist from St. Elizabeths mental hospital, where the defendant, Glenn I. Wright, 42, of Houston has been confined since his arrest, was called hurriedly to the courthouse and later testified that Wright's dazed and lethargic appearance was caused by a change in anti-anxiety medication prescribed for Wright over the weekend.
According to pretrial testimony, Wright has been held at St. Elizabeths, instead of the D.C. Jail, because doctors feared he might attempt to take his own life. Wright's lawyer has said he will present an insanity defense to the kidnaping charges.
After a lunch-time recess, Wright reappeared in the courtroom, looking more alert, and District Judge Oliver Gasch proceeded with the selection of a jury. The trial is scheduled to resume today with lawyers' opening arguments.
Thomas Abbenante, the lawyer for Wright's codefendant, Dennis Moss, 27, also of Houston, has indicated he will argue that Moss participated in the kidnaping under duress because he was afraid of Wright.
Dr. Edward Hume, the St. Elizabeths psychiatrist, testified that the impending trial and Moss' planned defense had increased Wright's anxieties in recent weeks.
Hume said Wright was involved in a fight with another patient last Friday.
Rosenkranz, 60, is the wife of George Rosenkranz, founder of the Syntex Corp., a pharmaceutical firm. She was abducted July 19 from the Sheraton Washington Hotel where the couple was attending an international bridge tournament. She was released unharmed the evening of July 21 on the Mall after her husband paid $1 million ransom.
The ransom was recovered by law enforcement authorities and Wright, Moss and a third defendant, Orland Tolden, also of Houston, were arrested a short time later. Tolden has pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.
With the jury not yet chosen, Edith Rosenkranz took the witness stand briefly yesterday after Abbenante, in a pretrial motion, challenged the adequacy of her identification of Moss as the one who abducted her at gunpoint from the hotel driveway.
Rosenkranz said she was walking with a friend, Laura Baird, when she heard a man say " 'Ladies' . . . and there he was, with a gun pointing at us.
"I thought that it was a holdup. I immediately held my purse out to him. I said, 'Here, have it.' He let it fall to the floor. I still did not realize. . . .
"I said, 'Here, I give you everything,' " Rosenkranz said. She said she pushed Baird slightly to encourage her to give up her purse. "But he pushed Baird away and said, " 'I don't want her. I want you.' "
After her abduction, Rosenkranz said she caught few glimpses of Moss' face. "He said, 'Don't turn, don't look me.' He said if I looked, he would kill me. I was scared and I didn't look at him." Rosenkranz testified she had no trouble later picking out Moss in a police lineup. Gasch denied Abbenante's motion to suppress the identification.
FBI Agent Paula Atwell also testified that the maintenance manager at a Norfolk motel, where Rosenkranz was held during the kidnaping, had identified Moss as acting suspiciously during the time when Rosenkranz was there.
Atwell said the motel employe, Lenton Barnhill, told authorities that Moss "appeared to be very nervous. He was scary. He kept going back and forth from a van parked outside to Room 28. He was constantly looking around."
Psychiatrist Hume testified that after last Friday's altercation involving Wright, Wright was given a sedative to "knock him out" and was placed in a "seclusion room" at the hospital. Over the weekend, Hume testified, Wright's daily dosage of a tranquilizer was increased by about 20 percent, with an especially heavy dose in the morning. Gasch last month found Wright mentally competent to stand trial.