Judge Deciding Albrecht Muth's Competence Thursday
Judge Russel F. Canan will hand down a decision about Georgetown murder suspect Albrecht Muth's mental competency in DC Superior Court Thursday.
Attorneys offered their final arguments Wednesday about whether Georgetown murder suspect Albrecht Muth is competent to stand trial, and now the decision rests with DC Superior Court Judge Russel F. Canan.
Canan will give his decision Thursday morning, determining whether Muth will be civilly committed or will face a jury in March.
Over the course of eight days, experts for the government and the prosecution weighed in on tests, interviews, reports and other information that will help Canan determine Muth's competence.
Muth is accused of killing his late wife, Viola Drath, in August 2011 in their Q Street home in Georgetown. Muth claims to be an Iraqi general and that his wife's death was the result of an Iranian hit gone wrong.
Patch has created a page specifically about the competency hearing here.
Closing Argument by the Prosecution
"We saw unfold in the mental health arena what Mr. Muth has done his entire life," said Assistant United States Attorney Glen Kirschner. Namely, Muth "snookered" his treating doctors by playing a part, said Kirschner.
Eventually, Muth's doctors at St. Elizabeths as well as the prosecution's experts, a total of six doctors, determined that Muth is competent to stand trial.
Two additional doctors for the defense, however, opined that Muth is not competent because he suffers from a delusional disorder that results in his belief that he is an Iraqi General.
The difference, said Kirschner, is context and the weight given to Muth's behavioral history. Interviews with the family and a man who lived in Muth and Drath's home reveal a pattern of creating false "personas" and manipulating his world through those personas, explained Kirschner.
"There is no major mental illness here. There is no delusional disorder here," said Kirschner.
Rather, Muth made a "career of cons and this is the latest con that Mr. Muth has undertaken," he said.
As for Muth's ability to "rationally understand" his case—a prong needed for competency—Kirschner said the defendant has a "keen, a rational, and a sophisticated understanding of the evidence."
Additionally, Kirschner took issue with that assertion that because Muth is not effectively consulting with his counsel—a prong needed for competency—that he is therefore not competent. The issue, as Kirschner sees it, is that Muth chooses not to cooperate with counsel partially out of vanity, but a lack of desire does not mean he is not able.
Additionally, Muth has throughout the process said he wants to represent himself in court. Kirschner argued that not working with counsel during the competency hearing does not impact his competency, since he does not plan to consult his attorneys during a trial.
Closing Argument by the Defense
Public defender Dana Page said her client was unable to rationally assist her or his defense team or to rationally understand the proceedings in court.
Muth's "rigid" focus on his identity as an Iraqi General and his insistence on only exploring one defense theory—that because he is an Iraqi General, the Iranians put a hit out on him—together mean that he cannot assist in his own defense, said Page.
Though Muth can weigh facts and evidence, like Kirschner said, that does not mean he is willing to use those to pursue a rational defense, said Page. Muth sees issues like not enough DNA evidence or an unlocked window as further proof of his Iranian hit theory, not as an alternative argument.
And the same collateral interviews with family members talking about Muth's various personas actually support the argument that he is delusional, said Page.
Page referenced an interview in which Drath's daughter spoke about the Iraqi General persona.
"She believes that he believes that he is who he says he is," said Page.
And Muth himself supports that impression, said Page. He refuses to change course or to give up the Iraqi General identity even when faced with direct evidence to the contrary, said Page.
His rigidity and "perseveration" are not a choice, said Page.
Instead they are "part of whatever it is that's going on in his brain."
And that his doctors at St. Elizabeths changed their minds about his competency even though "nothing has really changed" in Muth's presentation calls into question the validity of the doctors opinions, argued Page.
Page said his doctors were "spooked" by the New York Times article about Muth's past behavior and were then "schooled" by the prosecution's doctor and the family's opinions on Muth as provided by the prosecution.
Page questioned the validity of the report by Dr. Robert Phillips, which she believes influenced St. Elizabeths doctors to change their mind and find Muth competent.
Page said about Phillips, "he's selling you a used car," by talking about how it is "shiny on the outside," but she argued, "he's never popped the hood."
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