With no DNA and no eyewitnesses, attorneys for Albrecht Gero Muth tried Wednesday to argue that their client was innocent and that the prosecution’s theories that Muth killed his wife of 20 years, Viola Herms Drath, lacked proof.
In her closing argument in D.C. Superior Court, Dana Page of the District’s Public Defender Service said that Muth is innocent and that prosecutors blamed Muth because the husband, she said, is often the first suspect in a domestic abuse case.
“This ‘it must have been him theory’ is not proof,” Page said.
Muth, 49, is charged with first-degree murder in the August 2011 beating and strangulation death of Drath, a socialite and journalist who was 91 when she died.
During the six-day trial, prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to the stand, including Drath’s family, friends and visitors to Drath’s Georgetown home who argued that she had been abused for years. In 1992, prosecutors said, Muth pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife, leaving her with two black eyes.
Prosecutors argued that the abuse culminated on Aug. 12, 2011, when Muth allegedly strangled his wife in her bedroom and dragged her body into her bathroom. They argued that Muth continued to beat and strangle her as she lay on the floor.
Prosecutors said Muth killed his wife in a drunken rage after being out on a date earlier that evening with a man he met on Craigslist. Muth, prosecutors argued, wanted Drath’s money.
Page, on the other hand, argued that Muth lived the life he wanted while he was married. He was able to date men, which Page said Drath knew about. He got an allowance from Drath of $2,000 a month, and lived in Drath’s three-story brownstone. And there was a prenuptial agreement and last will and testament in place, in which Muth would not inherit anything.
“Mr. Muth doesn’t benefit from Ms. Drath’s death. He could live the life he wanted. Why kill her?" Page argued.
Muth often wore an eye patch and said he lost the eye during a mercenary battle in South America, but he later stopped wearing the patch. He wore a military uniform — which prosecutors say he ordered online — and wore it around the streets of Georgetown, telling neighbors he was an Iraqi general. At one point, he changed his name to Count Albi.
The couple were “two peas in a pod,” Page said. “An odd pod, but a pod nonetheless.”
Muth is in Department of Corrections custody while in a Washington area hospital after conducting a fast for more than a year. He was able to listen to the trial and watch it via videoconferencing from his hospital bed, with court employees at his bedside to aid with the videoconference.
Prosecutors Laura Bach and Glenn Kirschner countered, saying that Muth wanted money and that he presented Drath’s family with an alleged signed letter that Muth said was an amendment to Drath’s will, in which she ordered as much as $200,000 for Muth after she died.
Kirschner argued that Muth and Drath were the only two people in the house at the time of Drath’s death. There was no sign of forced entry and the doors were locked from the inside.
“If two people are alone in a room and only one of those two come out and the other person is dead, it’s proof that the survivor is the killer,” Kirschner argued.
Jurors briefly started deliberations late Wednesday afternoon, but soon were released for the evening. Deliberations will resume on Thursday.