Claus von Bülow
Claus Cecil Borberg
11 August 1926
|Died||25 May 2019 (aged 92)|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Lawyer, consultant, socialite|
(m. 1966; div. 1987)
|Children||Cosima von Bülow Pavoncelli|
Claus von Bülow (born Claus Cecil Borberg; 11 August 1926 - 25 May 2019) was a Danish-born British lawyer, consultant and socialite. In 1982, he was initially convicted of both the attempted murder of his wife Sunny von Bülow (born Martha Sharp Crawford; 1932-2008) in 1979, which had left her in a temporary coma, as well as an alleged insulin overdose in 1980 that left her in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of her life. On appeal, however, both convictions were reversed, and he was found not guilty at his second trial.
Beginning life as Claus Cecil Borberg, Bülow was the son of Jonna von Bülow-Plüskow (1900-1959) and Danish playwright Svend Borberg (1888-1947). His father was accused, though later cleared, of being a Nazi collaborator for his activities during the Second World War in the German occupation of Denmark. 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. His mother was the daughter of Frits Bülow af Plüskow, 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.
Bülow graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, and practised law in London in the 1950s before working as a personal assistant to J. Paul Getty. 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.
On 6 June 1966, Bülow married Sunny, the American ex-wife of Prince Alfred von Auersperg. 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. Cosima married the Italian Count Riccardo Pavoncelli in 1996.
In 1982, Bülow was arrested and tried for the attempted murders of Sunny on two occasions in two consecutive years. 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. The test was not repeated. A needle was used as evidence against Bülow in court, with the prosecution alleging that he had used it and a vial of insulin to try to kill his wife. His mistress of two years, the soap opera actress Alexandra Isles, testified "He said that they had been having a long argument, talk, about divorce that had gone on late into the night. She had drunk a great deal of egg nog. And then he said, 'I saw her take the Seconal.' And then he said that the next day when she was unconscious that he watched her knowing that she was in a bad way, all day, and watched her and watched her. And finally, when she was at the point of dying he said that he couldn't go through with it and he called (the doctor) and saved her life. The discovery of these items became the focal point of Bülow's appeal.
At the trial in Newport, Rhode Island, Bülow was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison; he appealed, hiring Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz to represent him. Dershowitz served as a consultant to the defense team led by Thomas Puccio, a former federal prosecutor. 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. Dershowitz and his team focused on the discovery of the bag containing the syringes and insulin. Sunny's family had hired a private investigator to look into her coma. 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. The family hired a locksmith to drive to the mansion, with the intention of picking the closet lock to find what the closet contained. They had lied to the locksmith and told him that one of them owned the house. 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. 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. It was in the closet that the main evidence against Claus von Bülow was found. In 1984, the two convictions from the first trial were reversed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. In 1985, after a second trial, Bülow was found not guilty on all charges.
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. The experts were John Caronna (chairman of neurology, Cornell); Leo Dal Cortivo (former president, U.S. Toxicology Association); Ralph DeFronzo (medicine, Yale University); Kurt Dubowski (forensic pathology, University of Oklahoma); Daniel Foster (medicine, University of Texas at Austin); Daniel Furst (medicine, University of Iowa); Harold Lebovitz (director of clinical research, State University of New York); Vincent Marks (clinical biochemistry, Surrey, vice-president Royal College of Pathologists and president, Association of Clinical Biochemistry); and Arthur Rubinstein (medicine, University of Chicago).
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. 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.
Alan Dershowitz, in his book Taking the Stand, writes about Claus von Bülow's dinner party after he was found not guilty at his trial. Dershowitz replied to the invitation that he would not attend if it was a "victory party", and Bülow assured him it was only a dinner for "several interesting friends." Norman Mailer also attended the dinner where, among other things, Dershowitz explained why the evidence pointed to Bülow not having attempted to murder his wife. As Dershowitz recounted, Mailer grabbed the arm of his wife, Norris Church Mailer, 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."
socialite Claus von Bülow
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
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.'
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.
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.
His mother, Jonna, was the daughter of Frits Bülow, a wealthy and prominent descendant of the illustrious German von Bülow family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
He said that they had been having a long argument, talk, about divorce that had gone on late into the night. She had drunk a great deal of egg nog. And then he said, 'I saw her take the Seconal.' And then he said that the next day when she was unconscious that he watched her knowing that she was in a bad way, all day, and watched her and watched her. And finally, when she was at the point of dying he said that he couldn't go through with it and he called (the doctor) and saved her life."
May 7, 1982 Von Bülow was sentenced to thirty years in prison but was granted $1 million bail, pending appeal.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The family... arranged for a locksmith to accompany them to Clarendon Court.
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.
April 27, 1984 The [Rhode Island] state Supreme Court reversed von Bulow's convictions.
June 10, 1985 Claus von Bülow was acquitted on both counts of assault with intent to murder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.