Claus von Bülow

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Claus von Bülow
Born Claus Cecil Borberg
(1926-08-11) 11 August 1926 (age 90)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Lawyer, socialite, critic
Spouse(s) Sunny von Bülow (1966–1987)
Children Cosima von Bülow Pavoncelli

Claus von Bülow (born Claus Cecil Borberg; 11 August 1926) is a British socialite[1] of German and Danish ancestry. He was accused of the attempted murder of his wife Sunny von Bülow (born Martha Sharp Crawford, 1932–2008) in 1979 which had left her in a coma from which she later recovered[2] but that conviction in the first trial was reversed and he was found not guilty at his second trial.[3] In the same trial he was also accused of the attempted murder of his wife by administering an insulin overdose in 1980 which left her in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of her life, but that conviction in the first trial was also reversed and he was found not guilty at his second trial.[4]

Background[edit]

Beginning life as Claus Cecil Borberg, Bülow was the son of Danish playwright Svend Borberg (1888–1947), who was regarded as a Nazi collaborator for his activities during the Second World War in the German occupation of Denmark.[5] After graduating from university with a degree in law and going on to become an apprentice in the legal profession, Claus chose to be known by his maternal surname, Bülow, instead of his father's surname Borberg.[6] His mother, Jonna von Bülow af Plüskow (1900–1959), was daughter of Frits Bülow af Plüskow,[7] Danish Minister of Justice from 1910 to 1913 and President of the upper Chamber of the Danish Parliament from 1920 to 1922, a member of the old Danish-German noble Bülow family, originally from Mecklenburg.

Clarendon Court, Yznaga Street and Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island

Bülow graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, and practiced law in London in the 1950s before working as a personal assistant to J. Paul Getty.[8] While he had a variety of duties for Getty, Bülow became very familiar with the economics of the oil industry. Getty wrote that Bülow showed "remarkable forbearance and good nature" as his occasional whipping boy, and Bülow remained with Getty until 1968.[citation needed] On 6 June 1966, Bülow married Sunny, the American ex-wife of Prince Alfred of Auersperg.[9] He worked on and off as a consultant to oil companies. Sunny already had a son and a daughter from her first marriage; together, she and Bülow had a daughter, Cosima von Bülow, born on 15 April 1967 in New York City.[10][11][12] Cosima married the Italian Count Riccardo Pavoncelli in 1996.[13]

Murder trials[edit]

In 1982, Bülow was arrested and tried for the attempted murders of Sunny on two occasions on two consecutive years.[2][14] The main medical and scientific evidence against him was that Sunny had low blood sugar, common in many conditions, but a blood test showed a high insulin level.[15] The test was not repeated.[16] A needle was used as evidence against Bülow in court,[17] with the prosecution alleging that he had used it and a vial of insulin to try to kill his wife.[18] The discovery of these items became the focal point of Bülow's appeal.[19]

At the trial in Newport, Bülow was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison;[14][20] he appealed, hiring Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz to represent him.[21] Dershowitz served as a consultant to the defense team led by Thomas Puccio, a former federal prosecutor.[22] Dershowitz's campaign to acquit Bülow was assisted by Jim Cramer and future New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer who were then Harvard Law School students.[23] Dershowitz and his team focused on the discovery of the bag containing the syringes and insulin.[24] Sunny's family had hired a private investigator to look into her coma.[25] The private investigator, Edwin Lambert (an associate of the Bülows' lawyer Richard Kuh), was told by several family members and a maid that Claus had recently been seen locking a closet in the Newport home that previously was always kept open.[26] The family hired a locksmith to drive to the mansion, with the intention of picking the closet lock to find what the closet contained.[27] They had lied to the locksmith and told him that one of them owned the house.[citation needed] When the three arrived, the locksmith insisted they try again to find the key, and after some searching, Kuh found a key in Claus von Bülow's desk that unlocked the closet.[citation needed] At this point, according to the three men in the original interviews, the locksmith was paid for the trip and left before the closet was actually opened, although the men would later recant that version and insist that the locksmith was present when they entered the closet.[citation needed] It was in the closet that the main evidence against Claus von Bülow was found.[citation needed] In 1984, the two convictions from the first trial were reversed[why?] by the Rhode Island Supreme Court.[28][29] In 1985, after a second trial, Bülow was found not guilty on all charges.[30]

At the second trial, the defense called eight medical experts, all university professors, who testified that Sunny's two comas had not been caused by insulin, but by a combination of ingested (not injected) drugs, alcohol, and chronic health conditions.[citation needed] The experts were John Caronna (chairman of neurology, Cornell);[citation needed] Leo Dal Cortivo (former president, U.S. Toxicology Association);[31] Ralph DeFronzo (medicine, Yale);[citation needed] Kurt Dubowski (forensic pathology, University of Oklahoma);[citation needed] Daniel Foster (medicine, University of Texas);[citation needed] Daniel Furst (medicine, University of Iowa);[citation needed] Harold Lebovitz (director of clinical research, State University of New York);[32] Vincent Marks (clinical biochemistry, Surrey, vice-president Royal College of Pathologists and president, Association of Clinical Biochemistry);[citation needed] and Arthur Rubinstein (medicine, University of Chicago).[33]

Cortivo testified that the hypodermic needle tainted with insulin on the outside (but not inside) would have been dipped in insulin but not injected; injecting it through flesh would have wiped it clean.[34] Evidence also showed that Sunny's hospital admission three weeks before her final coma showed she had ingested at least 73 aspirin tablets, a quantity that could only have been self-administered, and which indicated her state of mind.[35][36]

Alan Dershowitz, in his book Taking the Stand, recounts when von Bülow had a dinner party after he was found not guilty at his trial. Dershowitz countered that he would not attend if it was a "victory party", and von Bülow assured him that it was only a dinner for "several interesting friends." Norman Mailer attended the dinner where, among other things, Dershowitz explained why the evidence pointed to von Bulow's innocence. As Dershowitz recounted, Mailer grabbed his wife's arm and said: "Let's get out of here. I think this guy is innocent. I thought we were going to be having dinner with a man who actually tried to kill his wife. This is boring."[37]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Alan Dershowitz wrote the book Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case (1986) that was cinematically adapted as Reversal of Fortune (1990). Jeremy Irons starred as Claus von Bülow (a performance which won him both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor), Ron Silver as Dershowitz, and Glenn Close as Sunny von Bülow.[38]
  • Professor Vincent Marks and Caroline Richmond have a chapter on the science underpinning Sunny's medical condition in their book, Insulin Murders (London, Royal Society of Medicine Press 2007).
  • In The Simpsons season 5 episode 20, Bart states "the system works. Just ask Claus von Bülow" referring to the outright purchase of witnesses for the trial of mayor Quimby's nephew.
  • Television reporter Bill Kurtis narrated the American Justice crime series episode titled Von Bülow: A Wealth of Evidence.
  • The television series Biography produced and aired a documentary episode titled Claus von Bülow: A Reasonable Doubt featuring interviews with Claus von Bülow and Prof. Dershowitz.
  • Klaus Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events is named after Claus von Bülow.[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leitch, Thomas (2002). "Reversal of Fortune and the Lawyer Film". Crime films. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780521646710. socialite Claus von Bülow 
  2. ^ a b Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xxii. ISBN 0394539036. Sunny von Bülow recovered quickly from the first coma she suffered during the Christmas holiday in 1979 ... Sunny fell into an irreversible coma during the following Christmas season ... The prosecutor ... [presented] his own "true or false" offense: "true or false - Claus von Bülow administered ... insulin to his wife in an attempt to kill her on two separate occasions." The jury [at the first trial] checked the "true" box, convicting von Bülow of both crimes ... the Newport, Rhode Island, jury convict[ed] Claus von Bülow of twice attempting to murder his wife 
  3. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The Jury Decides". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 237. ISBN 0394539036. 'the clerk asked the foreman of the jury "On the charge that the defendant committed on December 27, 1979, the crime of assault with intent to murder, how do you find, guilty or not guilty?" Without pausing even for dramatic effect, the foreman responded, "Not guilty." 
  4. ^ State v. von Bülow, 475 A.2d 995 (R.I. 1984).
  5. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xix. ISBN 0394539036. Claus was born Claus Cecil Borberg ... His father, Svend Borberg, ... was tried as a Nazi collaborator and sentenced to four years in prison. Although he was eventually vindicated on appeal, he was imprisoned for more than a year and died shortly after his release. 
  6. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xix. ISBN 0394539036. Claus ... entered Cambridge University at age sixteen and graduated after the war with a degree in law ... After graduation, Claus, who by this time had adopted his mother's name, joined the chambers of the noted British barrister Quintin Hogg (later Lord Hailsham), apprenticing at the barrister's trade. 
  7. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xix. ISBN 0394539036. His mother, Jonna, was the daughter of Frits Bülow, a wealthy and prominent descendant of the illustrious German von Bülow family. 
  8. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. pp. xix–xx. ISBN 0394539036. Claus ... entered Cambridge University at age sixteen and graduated after the war with a degree in law ... After graduation, Claus ... joined the chambers of the noted British barrister Quintin Hogg (later Lord Hailsham), apprenticing at the barrister's trade. Later he went to work for J. Paul Getty and eventually became one of his chief assistants. 
  9. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xx. ISBN 0394539036. In 1957 Sunny Crawford married Prince Alfred Eduard Friedrich Vincenz Martin Maria von Auersperg ... The couple had two children during their eight-year marriage ... During a dinner party in London, an unhappily married Sunny met a debonair bachelor named Claus Bülow ... in 1966, following a two-year secret sexual liaison and Sunny's divorce from Prince Alfie, they were married. 
  10. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Dramatis Personae". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xiii. ISBN 0394539036. Claus von Bülow ... Married Martha von Auersperg on June 6, 1966. His only child, Cosima von Bülow, was born in April 1967. Martha ("Sunny") von Bülow, née Crawford ... Married Prince Alfred ("Alfie") von Auersperg on July 20, 1977. The children of this marriage are Princess Annie Laurie Kneissl an Prince Alexander von Auersperg. Married Claus von Bülow on June 6, 1966. Their only child is Cosima. 
  11. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xx. ISBN 0394539036. In 1957 Sunny Crawford married Prince Alfred Eduard Friedrich Vincenz Martin Maria von Auersperg ... The couple had two children during their eight-year marriage. The first, Princess Annie Laurie, named after Sunny's mother and nicknamed "Ala," was born in 1958. The second, Prince Alexander, was born in 1959 ... During a dinner party in London, an unhappily married Sunny met ... Claus Bulow ... in 1966, following a two-year secret sexual liaison and Sunny's divorce from Prince Alfie, they were married ... A year later their only child was born. They named her Cosima, after her godmother's daughter. 
  12. ^ "Cosima Borberg von Bülow f. 15 apr. 1967 New York, USA: – Skeel-Holbek, Schaffalitzky de Muckadell". finnholbek.dk. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "The Peerage – Person Page 14794: Count Riccardo Pavoncelli". thepeerage.com. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Jenkins, David (27 April 2008). "Catching up with Claus von Bulow". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 March 2016. Von Bulow, of course, was arrested, charged, found guilty on both counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 30 years in jail on 2 April 1982. 
  15. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The Doctors' Story: Blood Sugar and Insulin". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. pp. 24–27. ISBN 0394539036. 
  16. ^ Marks, Vincent (2007). Insulin Murders: True life cases. RSM Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-85315-760-8. 
  17. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The Son's Story: The Search for the Black Bag". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. pp. 19–23. ISBN 0394539036. Claus's stepson Alex ... his major importance as a witness was in describing the quiet investigation conducted by the family after the second coma ... The family decided to send Alex to Newport along with a private investigator, hired by attorney Kuh ... They arranged for a locksmith to accompany them to Clarendon Court ... They had found what they were looking for - the possible "attempted murder weapon" ... They had the "smoking gun" in the insulin-encrusted needle 
  18. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. pp. xxi–xxii. ISBN 0394539036. The prosecution's basic theory ... Claus was trapped in an unhappy marriage. He did not love his incredibly wealthy wife. But he did love her money ... He also loved Alexandra Isles ... According to the prosecution, Claus ... wanted both Sunny's money and Alexandra's hand. The only way this could be achieved was for Sunny to die a natural death. And so Claus arranged for Sunny to die a "natural death" by surreptitiously injecting her with insulin, a substance that is naturally in the body and that is difficult to distinguish from an externally administered overdose. 
  19. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. ISBN 0394539036. 
  20. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Chronology". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 269. ISBN 0394539036. May 7, 1982 Von Bülow was sentenced to thirty years in prison but was granted $1 million bail, pending appeal. 
  21. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Setting the Stage". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xxviii. ISBN 0394539036. My job, as an appellate lawyer, begins after the jury has convicted the defendant. I played no role in the first trial, having been retained to represent Mr. von Bülow immediately after the initial jury rendered its guilty verdict. But I have had substantial responsibility for everything that happened from that point on. 
  22. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Dramatis Personae". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xiv. ISBN 0394539036. Alan Dershowitz, chief counsel for the appeal and the new trial motion, and strategist and consultant for the second trial ... Thomas Puccio, Claus von Bülow's chief trial lawyer for the second trial. Former Abscam prosecutor 
  23. ^ Masters, Brooke A. "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer" New York: Henry Holt & Co. (2006) p. 30
  24. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Preparing for the New Trial - with the Kuh Notes". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 172. ISBN 0394539036. At the retrial, we would attack the entire insulin theory head-on ... We would prove that Maria and Alex had not seen insulin and syringes in the black bag after Thanksgiving. We would prove that Sunny's blood did not contain high levels of insulin. We would prove there was no insulin on the needle found in the black bag in January. And we would prove that the prosecution's doctors were wrong in concluding that exogenous insulin had caused Sunny's comas ... Our defense was becoming single focused: there was no exogenous insulin involved in this case. 
  25. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Trial and Error". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 107. ISBN 0394539036. the private detective, Edwin Lambert ... was hired to conduct the search and ... actually conducted it. His job was to find and preserve any and all evidence linking Claus von Bülow to Sunny's coma. 
  26. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The Son's Story: The Search for the Black Bag". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 21. ISBN 0394539036. After the final coma, Maria had searched for the black bag ... But it has vanished ... Maybe it was in Uncle Claus's closet ... But the closet was locked. That seemed strange, since it was usually unlocked. The family decided to send Alex to Newport along with a private investigator, hired by attorney Kuh, to get into that closet. 
  27. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The Son's Story: The Search for the Black Bag". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 21. ISBN 0394539036. The family .. arranged for a locksmith to accompany them to Clarendon Court. 
  28. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Reversals of Fortune". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 156,160–161. ISBN 0394539036. the court had reversed both counts on legal grounds ... the Rhode Island Supreme Court decision was rendered ...Even if the Rhode Island Supreme Court was wrong in its interpretation of the U.S. Constitution , von Bülow's conviction would have to stay reversed because it was based - independently - on the Rhode Island Constitution. As to its own constitution, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ... is deemed to be infallible. 
  29. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Chronology". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 270. ISBN 0394539036. April 27, 1984 The [Rhode Island] state Supreme Court reversed von Bulow's convictions. 
  30. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Chronology". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 270. ISBN 0394539036. June 10, 1985 Claus von Bülow was acquitted on both counts of assault with intent to murder. 
  31. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Dramatis Personae". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xv. ISBN 0394539036. Dr. Leo Dal Cortivo, chief toxicologist, Office of Suffolk County (New York) Medical Examiner, who provided an affidavit for the new-trial motion and testified for the defense at the second trial. 
  32. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Dramatis Personae". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xv. ISBN 0394539036. Dr. Harold Lebovitz, professor of medicine and head of endocrinology and diabetes at Downstate Medical Center in New York, who provided an affidavit for the new-trial motion and testified for the defense at the second trial. 
  33. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "Dramatis Personae". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. xv. ISBN 0394539036. Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medical School, who provided an affidavit for the new-trial motion and testified for the defense at the second trial. 
  34. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The True-or-False Defense". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 202. ISBN 0394539036. Cortivo ... As a live witness ... employed his experience in forensic examinations to demonstrate why it was extremely unlikely that they needle found in the black bag could have been used to inject Sunny. If the needle had been injected, he explained to the jury as he had explained to us two years earlier, any residue would have been "wiped clean" when they needle was extracted from the skin. 
  35. ^ Alan M. Dershowitz (1986). "The True-or-False Defense". Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case. New York: Random House. p. 202. ISBN 0394539036. Dr. Dal Cortivo ... As a live witness ... bolstered the defense contention that Sunny had taken "at least sixty-five aspirin tablets" during a half-hour period just three weeks before her final coma. 
  36. ^ Trial transcripts, June 1984
  37. ^ Dershowitz, Alan (2013). Taking the Stand. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 240/241. ISBN 978-0-307-71927-0. 
  38. ^ Internet Movie Database. "Reversal of Fortune (1990)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  39. ^ Melody Joy Kramer (12 October 2006). "A Series Of Unfortunate Literary Allusions". NPR. 

External links[edit]