Friday, May 31, 2019
The man at the center of a sensational murder plot that was convicted and acquitted twice has died at the age of 92. Claus von Bülow was charged with attempting to induce the death of his wife by injecting her with insulin and causing her to fall into a coma until her death in 2008. His death was confirmed by his son-in-law.
His wife, Martha von Bülow, also known as Sunny, was the heiress to a $75 million utilities fortune before her unrecoverable coma in December of 1980. Her first husband was the Prince of Austria and she was the mother of royalty: Prince Alexander von Auersperg and Princess Annie Laurie von Auersperg Kneissl. After being found guilty at the initial trial in 1982, Mr. von Bülow hired Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz to work on his appeal. Dershowitz was successful, and then Thomas Puccio, a former United States attorney, represented him for his second trial - that found him not guilty that time in 1985.
The von Bülow case became one of the most publicized legal contests in the second half of the 20th century due to Dershowitz profiting off the notoriety by writing a book based on the case, Reversal of Fortune. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title starring Jeremy Irons, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the protagonist husband, and Glenn Close as his heiress wife.
After his acquittal, his stepchildren filed a $56 million civil suit against him. It was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bülow agree to a divorce and that he not discuss the case publicly. Their palatial Fifth Avenue apartment was handed over to the Prince and Princess, and Mr. von Bülow returned to London until his death.
See Enid Nemy, Claus von Bülow, Society Figure in High-Profile Case, Dies at 92, New York Times, May 30, 2019.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.