WASHINGTON— A German man charged with killing his much-older wife has been starving himself and is in poor health, a doctor said Wednesday, but a judge said he intended to move forward with the trial.
Albrecht Muth is scheduled for trial in March in the 2011 killing of 91-year-old Viola Drath, a German journalist and socialite who was found stabbed and fatally beaten in a bathroom of the couple’s row home in Washington’s upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
Muth, 48, has said he is a brigadier general in the Iraqi army and that Drath was killed in an Iranian hit. Prosecutors say those claims are a delusional fiction from someone who was unemployed and living off an allowance from his wife.
Muth, who was deemed competent for trial in December, has been hospitalized since last month after refusing to eat or drink. He is too weak to walk and was unable to get out of the van when officials tried to return him to the jail, Dr. Diana Lapp said in court Wednesday. Muth did not attend the pretrial hearing but was conferenced in from the hospital.
“He’s in very, very poor health,” she said.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan said he didn’t think Muth was physically capable to act as his own attorney, even though Muth has insisted on representing himself. He reappointed Muth’s public defenders, but then agreed with the defense lawyers that Muth was entitled to a hearing on whether he’s able to represent himself at trial. He set a hearing for later this month but said he still intended to proceed to trial.
“I encourage you to cease your fast,” Canan told Muth.
Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner argued that the extended fast, which Muth also undertook earlier in the case, was just another way him to delay the trial. He said he supported Muth being represented by public defenders so that the trial could proceed.
“It is the government’s position that the defendant is orchestrating his own unavailability,” he said.
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