Bulgarian Drug Implicated in US Murder Case*
By SHANNON P. DUFFY
The Daily Times, Delaware
Millionaire murderer John E du Pont is running out of options now that a federal appeals court has rejected his claim that he deserves a new trial because the jury was never told he was suffering from the side effects of a Bulgarian prescription drug.
Du Pont, who will be 72 Nov. 22, was found guilty but mentally ill for the January 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler and gold-medal winner David Schultz at du Pont's estate in Newtown Township. He was later sentenced to 13 to 30 years in prison.
Ever since, du Pont has been waging a series of appeals in the state and federal courts — and has lost at every step.
In the latest appeal, du Pont's lawyers argued that a Bulgarian drug, N-butyl scopolamine, can aggravate a mental illness and that du Pont's trial lawyers botched the defense by failing to explore the possibility that it affected his mental state.
Instead, the lawyers said, du Pont's trial team allowed the prosecutors to focus on du Pont's cocaine abuse as the main cause of his downward mental spiral. As a result, they say, the defense missed its chance to show that a perfectly legal drug was the true culprit.
In December 1995, just one month before the shooting of Schultz, the lawyers said that du Pont was in Bulgaria for a wrestling event and was prescribed N-butyl scopolamine for a stomach ailment.
"This drug has potential serious side effects (not known to du Pont) of exacerbating mental illness and can cause toxic psychosis and amnesia," the lawyers wrote in their brief.
"This evidence would have provided a compelling rebuttal to the commonwealth's theory that du Pont's actions were cocaine induced, by showing that a legally prescribed drug had greatly exacerbated du Pont's mental illness," the brief said.
But Delaware County Assistant District Attorney William R. Toal III argued du Pont can't blame his lawyers because the strategy makes no sense and would never have worked.
Toal noted that du Pont's trial team, led by Thomas Bergstrom, was already pursuing an insanity defense and presented numerous experts who testified that du Pont was insane "based upon his paranoid schizophrenic condition."
Du Pont also has no proof that the lawyers were even aware of the Bulgarian drug, Toal contended. An interview of du Pont by two doctors included only a "vague reference" to a "Bulgarian headache medicine," Toal noted.
Now a unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Toal and rejected du Pont's appeal in a tersely worded five-page opinion.
Chief Circuit Judge Theodore A. McKee flatly rejected du Pont's claim that the jury could have used the evidence of his scopolamine use to support a verdict that he was not guilty by reason of insanity.
"The argument is meritless because under Pennsylvania law even such proof of 'intoxication' would have been unavailing in du Pont's case, as he was charged with murder," McKee wrote.
Now that the 3rd Circuit has rejected the appeal, du Pont's appellate options have dwindled significantly.
His only hopes for winning a new trial now would come in a rarely granted appeal before all 14 judges on the 3rd Circuit or a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorney Burt Rublin, who headed up du Pont's appellate team, declined to comment on the ruling.
Toal, in a brief interview, said he had expected the appeal to fail because the most du Pont could have gained from presenting the evidence of scopolamine use would be a reduction of the charge from first- to third-degree murder which the jury already found.
*The title has been changed by Novinite.com.
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