Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Claus von Bulow Case

The Others Testify

Another housemaid who told the courtroom that Claus would get up early to go walking because that was the only time Sunny didn't want him by her side. Sunny didn't want Claus to have a life outside of her. The maid also reported that she had seen Claus enter Sunny's bedroom three times during the day of her first coma, not once, as he had told authorities.

But most of the first trial was taken up with important, yet boring, technical testimony about blood sugar, insulin's effect on the body, and the breakdown cycle of sugar and c-peptides, which can determine whether the insulin in the bloodstream is indigenous or extraneous. Doctors who treated Sunny in Newport, Boston and New York, those who had seen her during her first episode, those who had tested her in early 1980, and those who had treated her in her last, irreversible coma all paraded before the court to provide both opinion and fact.

Technicians who drew Sunny's blood also testified and caused a bit of a stir when they acknowledged that it was possible the blood samples that showed Sunny's insulin level to be extraordinarily high when she was treated for the 1980 coma might have been mixed up with blood drawn after she had been given dextrose.

This modicum of reasonable doubt didn't hold, however, because three technicians admitted to being "intimidated and confused" by questions posed by investigators for the defense six months earlier. On re-direct, the techs all stated they were sure the high insulin levels were discovered in blood that had not been altered by any hospital-provided medicine.

Dr. Gerhard Meier was the doctor on duty when the insulin level tests were ordered on Sunny. His first words when he saw Sunny brought into the emergency room were "this is an obvious drug overdose."

Meier found out through tests that Sunny's insulin level was an "incredibly high" 216 mg and her barbiturate level was 1.06 mg each per centum of blood. The amobarbitol was high, but not necessarily toxic, Meier testified.

Fahringer tried to explore the idea that Sunny's insulin level was self-induced. Meier had once told a colleague not to "rule out the surreptitious administration of medication" in connection with Sunny's first coma.

"A surreptitious administration could be self-induced, couldn't it?" Fahringer asked.

"Of course," the doctor replied.

Gailitis, who treated Sunny for her first coma, also took the stand. Since there had been no suspicion of foul play at that time, Gailitis had not ordered any insulin tests until after he had administered several glucose pushes to the unconscious woman, so any test results would be inaccurate. Gailitis did, however, read from a letter he had received from von Bülow asking if he (Claus) had acted properly during the first day of the first coma. Gailitis replied by letter that he believed Claus' actions might have saved her life.

Dr. Richard Stock, the physician who discovered the insulin on the dirty needle inside the black bag was called into court, also testified for the prosecution. On cross-examination, Fahringer, asked Sunny's doctor why he didn't tell his patient that he suspected Claus was trying to harm her.

"You're on a sensitive subject, counselor... We have libel laws in this country," Stock replied. "I can't afford to make an accusation that I can't back up in court."

But wouldn't Stock have said something if he was aware someone was trying to surreptitiously administer insulin to Sunny?

"Don't you think that I wish to heck I had mentioned it?" Stock admitted emotionally. "Every time I go into her hospital room now I say to myself, 'Why didn't I mention this?'"

Finally, Boston neurologist Harris Funkenstein testified that, after exhausting all other possibilities, including aspirin overdose, barbiturates and other drugs, the only explanation for how Sunny could have gone into an irreversible coma in a matter of hours was the introduction of exogenous insulin.

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