Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Claus von Bulow Case


Although Dershowitz believed that Needham had made reversible errors in allowing the statements and the contents of the black bag to be introduced into evidence, and in prohibiting the defense from viewing Kuh's notes, von Bülow's best chance of staying out of prison was to get new evidence introduced in a new trial. So, while part of his team was preparing the appellate brief for the Supreme Court, others on the team went back through the transcripts, interviews and expert testimony to find new evidence to establish von Bülow's innocence.

The new evidence team also had help from the general public, who mostly had believed in von Bülow's innocence. Most people with evidence that could have helped von Bülow in his first trial had assumed he would be acquitted and were reluctant to get involved in the media circus the trial had become.

Author Truman Capote (AP)
Author Truman Capote

One of the most famous people to come forward was author Truman Capote, who swore in an affidavit that Sunny Crawford had shown him 30 years before how to inject himself with stimulants and that she had claimed to be a regular intravenous drug user. Several other notables, including Joanne Carson, a mutual friend of Sunny and Truman, backed up Capote's claims.

In Reversal of Fortune, Dershowitz relays Capote's comments about Sunny, which contrasted strikingly to the characterization of Sunny in the trial. "She had a handbag and inside the handbag every time I've ever seen her... she had inside of it a little purse that had disposable injection things in it and other things — pills," Capote said. "I certainly saw them and she was using them on me and using them on herself."

Before Claus' appeal was heard, however, Capote died in the home of Joanne Carson, and his affidavit was unusable because he had not been cross-examined. The von Auerspergs denied Capote's allegations and Kuh called him "a dead perjurer."

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